NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said mission officials will hold a meeting to discuss next steps and determine if a launch is possible on Monday or Tuesday, or if the rocket stack should be brought back to the building. assembly of vehicles.
If brought back into the building, Artemis I won’t have another launch opportunity until October, with mid-October likely due to launch pad timing, Nelson said.
Senior NASA officials speaking to Kennedy Space Center VIPs told those gathered they believe a rollback of the Artemis moon rocket to the building was likely necessary in order to fix the problem that caused the canceled Saturday’s launch attempt, sources told CNN’s Kristin Fisher.
That would mean the team wouldn’t be able to attempt another launch for several weeks. It takes at least three and a half days to roll the rocket to the building before they can start working on it, then bring it back to the pad.
The agency will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. ET to share an update.
Artemis I was scheduled to take off on Saturday afternoon, but those plans were canceled after crew members discovered a liquid hydrogen leak that they spent most of the morning trying to fix. Liquid hydrogen is one of the propellants used in the rocket’s large central stage. The leak prevented the launch team from filling the tank with liquid hydrogen despite various troubleshooting procedures.
This is the second time in a week that the space agency has been forced to abort the launch countdown due to technical issues. The first launch attempt on Monday was canceled after several problems arose, including with a system meant to cool the rocket’s engines before liftoff and various leaks that occurred while refueling the rocket.
The liquid hydrogen leak was detected Saturday at 7:15 a.m. ET in the quick-disconnect cavity that feeds the rocket with hydrogen into the core stage engine section. This was a different leak than what happened before Monday’s clean launch.
Launch controllers warmed up the line in an attempt to achieve a tight seal and the flow of liquid hydrogen resumed before a leak reoccurred. They stopped the flow of liquid hydrogen and proceeded to “close the valve used to fill and drain it, then increase the pressure on a ground transfer line using helium to attempt to close it again” , according to NASA.
This troubleshooting plan was not successful. The team again attempted the foreground to warm up the line, but the leak reoccurred after manually restarting the flow of liquid hydrogen.
There was a 60% chance the weather would be favorable for the launch, according to weather officer Melody Lovin.
The Artemis I stack, which includes the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft, continues to sit on Launchpad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The Artemis I mission is just the start of a program that will aim to bring humans back to the Moon and eventually land crewed missions on Mars.
There is still a save opportunity for the launch of the Artemis I mission on September 5-6.
Over the past few days, the launch team has taken the time to address issues, such as hydrogen leaks, that surfaced ahead of Monday’s scheduled launch before it was cleaned up. The team also performed a risk assessment of an engine conditioning issue and a foam crack that also popped up, according to NASA officials.
Both were considered acceptable risks before the launch countdown, according to Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin.
On Monday, a sensor on one of the rocket’s four RS-25 engines, identified as Engine No. 3, indicated that the engine could not reach the proper temperature range required for the engine to start on liftoff.
Engines must be thermally conditioned before super cold propellant passes through them prior to liftoff. To prevent the engines from experiencing temperature shocks, the launch controllers gradually increase the pressure of the central stage liquid hydrogen tank in the hours before launch to send a small amount of liquid hydrogen to the engines. This is called “bleeding”.
The team has since determined it was a bad sensor providing the reading – they plan to ignore the faulty sensor in the future, according to Space Launch Systems chief engineer John Blevins.
Overview of missions
Once Artemis I launches, Orion’s journey will last 37 days as it travels to the moon, loops around it and returns to Earth – traveling a total of 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometres) .
Although the passenger list does not include any humans, it does have passengers: three mannequins and a stuffed Snoopy toy will ride Orion.
Expect to see views of Earthrise similar to what was first shared during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968, but with much better cameras and technology.
CNN’s Kristin Fisher contributed to this story.