The next Artemis 1 launch attempt could happen as soon as next week, assuming NASA has met all of the goals it set for its rocket’s fuel test.
NASA needed to test adding super-cooled fuel to the Space Launch System’s tanks to confirm repairs made after the mission’s second launch attempt was canceled in late August.
The ground team at Kennedy Space Center discovered a persistent hydrogen leak affecting one of the SLS’s fuel lines at the time and attempted to repair it three times that day. The team ultimately failed and decided to postpone the mission.
A few days later, the team discovered that the leak was caused by a brief overpressurization of the SLS rocket’s core booster tank.
To avoid a repeat of the incident, the team modified procedures for filling the rocket’s tank with propellants, which involves transitioning temperatures and pressures more slowly to avoid rapid changes that could cause leakage.
Engineers from the team also replaced the liquid hydrogen seals on the rocket after discovering a small indentation in one of them that may have contributed to the leak.
While the engineers encountered another hydrogen leak during the fuel test, their troubleshooting efforts were successful this time, and the leak was reduced to “within allowable rates.”
This allowed them to perform the pre-pressurization test, which increased the pressure in the liquid hydrogen tank to match what it would experience just before launch.
Artemis 1 launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said the test went “really well” and that the team was able to accomplish all the objectives it set out to do.
NASA will now evaluate data from the test before deciding if it can schedule another launch for the mission on its target date of September 27th.