The next test to launch mission Artemis 1 to the Moon may be already the next week. NASA has honored all the tasks that have been placed before it to make the test of the SLS rocket firing system successful.
The space agency had to test adding supercooled fuel to the launch vehicle’s tanks to verify repairs that were carried out after the second launch attempt in late August. The Kennedy Space Center ground team then noticed a persistent hydrogen leak affecting one of the SLS fuel lines and attempted to fix it three times during the day. In the end, the launch had to be postponed.
A few days later, the team determined that the leak was caused by a short-term overpressure in the SLS rocket’s core booster tank. To prevent a similar incident from happening again, the team adjusted the rocket’s fueling procedure, which involves slower changes in temperature and pressure to prevent rapid changes that could cause a leak. The team’s engineers also replaced the rocket’s liquid hydrogen seals after discovering a small dent in one of them that could have contributed to the leak.
Although engineers encountered another hydrogen leak during fuel testing, their troubleshooting efforts worked this time and reduced the leak to “acceptable limits”. This allowed them to perform a preliminary leak test, during which the liquid hydrogen tank was pressurized to the level it would be just before the actual launch.
Artemis 1 launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said the test went “very well” and that the team was able to accomplish all the set tasks. NASA will now evaluate the data from the test before deciding whether it can schedule another launch of the mission for September 27.