After a second problem encountered by NASA’s launch team last Saturday, the Artemis I may not make the full mission as planned.
The vessel is slated for future missions — in September and October. However, with the new conditions giving doubts to the team, there may be delays with the aforementioned schedules. According to NASA, the delays could be from days to a couple of weeks, depending on the assessment from the launch team of Artemis I.
Jim Free, the associate administrator from the Exploration Systems Development Mission Doctorate of NASA, said, “We will not be launching in this launch period. We are not where we wanted to be.”
The vessel, composed of the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket, needs to be brought to and checked by the Vehicle Assembly Building, where it will await a waiver from the US Space Force before it is cleared for its next mission.
The administrator of NASA, Bill Nelson, said that the scrubs the team encountered do not mean Artemis I is a failure. He told the media that Artemis had already been checked and reassessed by the Vehicle Assembly Building 20 times before its planned launch.
“We do not launch until we think it’s right,”said Nelson. “These teams have labored over that, and that is the conclusion they came to. I look at this as part of our space program, in which safety is the top of the list.”
The scrub that hindered the mission
Three hours before its planned launch last Saturday, Artemis I received a call for scrub from the members. A liquid hydrogen leak was discovered by the members. The team then checked and spent time resolving the issue.
Liquid Hydrogen is an essential requirement for takeoff since it is used as one of the propellants in the rocket’s large core. The leak within the Artemis I system suspended the takeoff of the vessel even with several troubleshooting initiatives undertaken by the team.
A small leak found in the same area was also found prior to the Saturday takeoff, but the one they found on the day of the launch was much bigger. According to the initial diagnosis, the soft seal of the liquid hydrogen connection might have been damaged due to overpressurization. However, the team said they need to make more assessments to ensure that everything is accounted for.
One of the other problems
Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin had to make sure that all was in order before the launch was called. And in doing so, permitted to delay the takeoff numerous times because of several issues that arose. The hydrogen leak is just one of many problems the Artemis team dealt with.
Issues with the rocket’s cooling system, persistent leaks, and other minor issues were causes for the delay. Artemis I had been suspended twice because of these problems.
NASA said that the bigger leak on Saturday prompted the team to “close the valve used to fill and drain it, then increase pressure on a ground transfer line using helium to try to reseal it.”
Despite efforts to stop the leaking, it reoccured, leading the Artemis team to call off the launch plan. Further, weather officer Melody Lovin reported a 60% chance of favorable weather conditions.
The Artemis I and its goal
NASA has prepared for this mission for a long time because, if successful, NASA could set the conditions for another manned mission to the moon and, more ambitiously, to Mars.
Nelson said, “As we embark on the first Artemis test flight, we recall this agency’s l storied past, but our eyes are focused not on the immediate future but out there.”
“It’s a future where NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the l moon. And on these increasingly complex l missions, astronauts will live and work in l deep space, and we’ll develop the science and technology to send the first humans to Mars.”