NASA announced Monday evening it will delay a fuel system test of the massive new Space Launch System rocket following repairs to fueling components performed last week aimed at addressing recurring liquid hydrogen fuel leaks.
The fueling test, originally set for Sept. 17, has been pushed to Sept. 21. NASA says it is now looking to launch the historic Artemis I space mission on Sept. 27 and reviewing Oct. 2, as a potential backup date.
Technical issues have led to scrubs in the first two attempts to launch the Artemis I mission, the first in a multi-phase plan to put astronauts back on the moon and establish an ongoing presence on the lunar surface that could play a role in a future manned mission to Mars.
The revised launch dates will also require a tight coordination with other activity scheduled at Kennedy Space Center including the Oct. 3 launch of SpaceX’s Crew-5 mission, which is set to ferry a new group of astronauts to the International Space Station.
NASA will also need a sign-off on their request for a safety waiver extension that is still under review by Kennedy Space Center range officials.
On Monday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined a group of officials at Rice University to commemorate the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s “moonshot” speech, aiming to stoke excitement and political support for the then-nascent agency and the Apollo space mission.
At the event in Houston, Nelson said no matter what challenges are encountered, or how long it takes to iron out issues, the Artemis I mission will find success.
“We will launch when we are ready,” Nelson said. “But mark my words, we are going. When the final go is given, Artemis I will roar to life and soar to the moon. And every observation we make and every lesson we learn on this first Artemis journey prepares us and the way for humans to venture even further.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mars is calling. Why? Because it’s in our DNA to explore.”
When will Artemis I launch?
The next potential launch times for the Artemis I are Sept. 27 when a 70-minute launch window opens at 11:37 a.m. EDT. NASA said it is also reviewing Oct. 2 as an option when a 109-minute launch window opens at 2:52 p.m. EDT that day.
What is Artemis I’s purpose?
The crewless Artemis I mission is scheduled to run for 42 days on a flight that will allow NASA experts to test the new SLS components, many of which have been repurposed from the old space shuttle program and other systems, as well as the Orion space capsule.
That capsule, the eventual home for future space travelers, will be carried into lunar orbit where it will take a spin around the moon and then head back to earth for a fiery plunge through the atmosphere at some 25,000 mph before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at the end of the mission.
What is Artemis II?
Artemis II, currently anticipated for sometime in 2024, will head to space with a four-person crew in the Orion capsule that will fly the craft around the moon in further testing. Then, if all goes according to NASA’s current plan, the SLS/Orion package will return on a mission that will include a landing on the moon’s surface in 2025.
Why are we going back to the moon?
In a posting on the Artemis missions’ website, NASA lists a few reasons why it’s devoting billions of dollars to making moon landings, once again, a priority.
“We’re going back to the moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits and inspiration for a new generation of explorers: the Artemis Generation,” NASA says. “While maintaining American leadership in exploration, we will build a global alliance and explore deep space for the benefit of all.”
And while a return to the moon smacks a little of “been there, done that,” NASA says it’s committed to accomplishing some other first benchmarks as part of the series of Artemis missions, including extending manned exploration deeper into the solar system.
“With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before,” NASA says in a web posting. “We will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the moon. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.”
SLS Launch System specs
NASA says its SLS launch system stands at 322 feet high — taller than the Statue of Liberty — and weighs 5.75 million pounds when loaded with fuel. During launch and ascent, the SLS will produce 8.8 million pounds of maximum thrust, 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rockets that propelled Apollo astronauts to the moon.