(Washington) NASA’s fourth attempt to complete a crucial test for the rocket it plans to send to the moon has met nearly 90 percent of its goals, officials said Tuesday, but a launch date has yet to be announced.
Posted at 5:46 p.m
This test is the last that the US space agency is conducting before the Artemis 1 mission planned for this summer: a moon flight without passengers, which will then be followed by a capsule, this time with people, but probably not before 2026.
Kennedy Space Center teams began testing on Saturday. Objective: Fill the SLS rocket’s tanks with liquid fuel, start a launch countdown and simulate unforeseen events, then empty the tanks.
Problems multiplied on three previous attempts, and it had been impossible to supply the rocket with hundreds of thousands of gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
On Monday, the engineers finally managed to fill the tanks. But they also had to deal with a new hydrogen leak problem that they couldn’t solve.
“I would say we’re 90 percent where we need to be overall,” Artemis mission leader Mike Sarafin told reporters Tuesday.
He added that NASA is still deciding if it needs another sample or if it can go straight to launch. The agency previously said an August window for Artemis-1 is possible.
NASA officials have repeatedly pointed out that delays in testing new systems were common during, say, the Apollo era, and that issues affecting the SLS megarocket were not a major concern.
With the Orion capsule attached, Block 1 of the SLS is 98 meters tall – taller than the Statue of Liberty but slightly smaller than the Saturn V rockets that power the Apollo missions to the moon.
Artemis-1 is scheduled to travel to the far side of the moon on a test flight this summer.
Artemis-2 will be the first test with a crew flying around the moon but not landing, while Artemis-3 sees the first woman and first colored person land on the moon’s south pole.
NASA wants to establish a permanent presence on the moon and use it as a testing ground for technologies needed for a mission to Mars in the 2030s.