NASA says test good enough to try for Artemis launch next week


ORLANDO, Fla. — NASA announced Thursday that this week’s cryogenic fueling test at Kennedy Space Center was good enough to begin work toward a launch attempt as early as Tuesday.

“Based on data from the test, teams are optimizing procedures for the next launch opportunity, which is targeted for no earlier than September 27,” said a statement on NASA’s website. “The missile remains on the launch pad in a safe and ready-to-fly configuration.”

Wednesday’s nearly 10-hour test at Launch Pad 39-B revealed multiple liquid hydrogen leak problems, some similar to those that caused peeling during the last launch attempt on Sept. 3.

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But mission managers were able to troubleshoot and enforce to achieve all goals for the test, which prepared the rocket for its third launch attempt.

NASA will host a discussion on the next launch opportunity Friday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time, which will be streamed on its website at nasa.gov/live.

One uncertain factor is whether the U.S. Space Force will give NASA the OK to attempt a launch, though it hasn’t checked its flight cancellation system’s batteries since Aug. 16, the last time the massive 5.75-million-foot combination Space Launch System rocket, mobile launch vehicle, and Orion spacecraft was located in the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

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The Space Force controls the Eastern Range over which the rocket would launch and had only a prior 25-day window allowed between times that the rocket’s self-destruct mechanism could run without verification.

But if a waiver is allowed, NASA could pursue two previously announced potential launch dates. Tuesday is a 70-minute window that opens at 11:37 a.m. and would fly on a nearly 40-day mission that would land back on Earth on November 5. The second is Sunday October 2nd, a 109 minute window opens at 14:52 and flies for an approximately 41 day mission, landing on November 11th.

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Artemis I is the first in a series of missions NASA plans to return humans to the moon and eventually Mars. This first unmanned flight is intended to prove that the Orion spacecraft can support humans as it will travel further beyond the moon and bring it back to Earth faster than any other spacecraft previously certified for humans.

If successful, a manned Artemis II mission orbiting the moon would follow in 2024, followed by Artemis III as early as 2025, aiming to return humans, including the first woman, to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

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