the Artemis 1 pile – a huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with an Orion crew capsule on top – deployed to pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida in mid-March for its “wetsuit rehearsal”, a crucial series of testing which includes refueling the SLS.
The wet dress began on April 1 and was due to end two days later. But the team of Artemis 1 encountered several problemsincluding a stuck valve on the mission’s mobile launch tower and a hydrogen leak in one of the “umbilical” lines connecting the tower to the SLS, which delayed and eventually stopped wetsuit after three refueling attempts.
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On April 25, team members rolled the Artemis 1 stack from pad 39B return to KSC’s cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to investigate problems and make necessary fixes. That work is going well, NASA officials said in a call with reporters today (May 5).
For example, the team replaced the faulty valve and figured out why it got stuck: a piece of rubber was preventing it from closing properly. This debris was not part of the valve; where he came from is under investigation, agency officials said. And the helium leak is likely because some of the umbilical bolts have loosened slightly due to loose compression on a joint.
Work on the Artemis 1 stack continues, but the team is optimistic it will be done soon, paving the way for another wet dress test.
“We are currently looking at this next wet dress in early to mid-June,” Jim Free, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said on the call. of today.
This schedule would necessitate a VAB deployment by the end of May, as the Artemis 1 team needs 12-14 days to prepare for the wet dress once SLS and Orion are on the launch pad, Free added. .
Free expressed confidence that the fourth time would be the wet dress charm, but acknowledged that “it may take more than one attempt to get the procedures where we need them.”
He also pointed out that encountering problems when verifying a brand new launch system is hardly surprising. He gave several other examples, including that of the spaceshipwhich hit the carpet for her wet dress in December 1980 but was not first launched until April 12, 1981.
“It’s a challenge to get these new systems and complicated vehicles to work,” Free said. “We certainly own where our program is, but I think we’re in the family where we’ve been in the past.”
NASA will not set a target launch date for Artemis 1 until the wet dress is complete and the resulting data has been analyzed. But, on today’s call, Free mentioned August as the earliest period likely available at this point.
Artemis 1 will send an unmanned Orion on a journey of about a month around the moon. The mission – NASA’s first Artemis program lunar exploration – is designed to ensure that SLS and Orion are ready for crewed flights.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will send astronauts around the moon in 2024, and Artemis 3 will land a crew near the lunar south pole in 2025 or thereabouts.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on Facebook.