NASA confirmed on the sidelines of a press conference this Saturday that no new takeoff of the Artemis 1 mission for the Moon is currently scheduled after the failure of this weekend. The huge SLS rocket will therefore return to its hangar, awaiting a new launch window – probably in October.
The space agency faces several problems, in addition to technical difficulties around the SLS launcher. Indeed, the launch window is limited, especially since NASA cannot schedule a launch that would have an impact on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon missions to supply the international space station.
No launch of Artemis 1 will be retried immediately
According to regulations, Nasa and its partners must retest the rocket’s self-destruct system after 25 days – although the agency may get a waiver by then. But as Artemis Mission Manager Mike Sarafin explains “unless we get that waiver, we’re going to have to wait”.
Since the cancellation of the launch this weekend, the mission engineers have been working to solve the last problems that could lead to an aborted new launch. The last launch was canceled around 11am this Saturday after a potentially fatal fuel leak was discovered – in addition to a problem around the launcher’s self-destruct system.
The rocket is in fact partly fueled by hydrogen, and any leak can trigger violent destruction of the launcher when this highly explosive gas comes into contact with the oxygen present in the air. An obviously unacceptable risk for a rocket that must eventually transport astronauts.
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For the time being, NASA teams are still looking for the origin of the leak – the problem which had already been observed during the last canceled launch last Monday. On Monday August 29, 2022, NASA had already had to cancel the launch after detecting a leak – moreover much less intense. The whole question is to know at this stage what could have made the situation worse in the meantime, despite the efforts of the engineers.