Artemis I Moon Rocket Repair Work Underway, Preparations Continue for Next Launch Opportunity

NASA Space Launch System (SLS) Rocket Seen at Launch Pad 39B

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is seen at Launch Pad 39B Thursday, September 8, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as teams work to replace the seal on an interface, called the quick disconnect, between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line on the mobile launcher and the rocket. Credit: NASA/Chad Siwik

NASA engineers are making progress in repairing the area where a liquid hydrogen leak was detected during the Artemis I launch attempt on September 3. NASA is preserving options for the next launch opportunity, which can happen as early as Friday, September 23.

Technicians constructed a tent-like enclosure around the work area at Launch Pad 39B to protect the hardware and teams from weather and other environmental conditions. They have disconnected the ground- and rocket-side plates on the interface, called a quick disconnect, for the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line and performed initial inspections. They have also begun replacing two seals – one surrounding the 8″ line used to fill and drain liquid hydrogen from the core stage, and another surrounding the 4″ bleed line used to redirect some of the propellant during tanking operations. Both the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft are in good condition while remaining at the launch pad.

Once the repair work is complete, engineers will reconnect the plates and perform initial tests to evaluate the new seals. Teams will check the new seals under cryogenic, or supercold, conditions no earlier than September 17. For this, the rocket’s core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage will be loaded with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to validate the repair under the conditions it would experience on launch day. Engineers are in the process of developing a complete plan for the checkouts.

NASA Artemis I Prelaunch Sunrise

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen during sunrise atop a mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B on August 31, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Artemis I flight test is the first integrated test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and supporting ground systems. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA has submitted a request to the Eastern Range, which supports missile and rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center, for an extension of the current testing requirement for the flight termination system. NASA is respecting the range’s processes for review of the request, and the agency continues to provide detailed information to support a range decision.

In the meantime, NASA is instructing the Artemis team to move forward with all preparations required for testing, followed by launch. This includes preparations to ensure adequate supplies of propellants and gases used in tanking operations, as well as flight operations planning for the mission. NASA has requested the following launch opportunities:

  • September 23: Two-hour launch window opens at 6:47 a.m. EDT; landing on October 18
  • September 27: 70-minute launch window opens at 11:37 a.m.; landing on November 5

NASA’s teams internally are preparing to support additional dates in the event that flexibility is needed. The agency will evaluate and adjust launch opportunities and alternate dates based on progress at the pad and to align with other planned activities. This includes DART’s planned impact with an asteroid, the west coast launch of a government payload, and the launch of Crew-5 to the International Space Station.

Listen to a replay of today’s media teleconference on the status of the Artemis I mission. NASA Artemis I is an uncrewed flight test to provide a foundation for human exploration in deep space and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

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