The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has identified Saturday, September 3 as the day when it’ll make a second attempt to launch the first round of its Artemis-I moon mission.
On Sunday, August 29, the first launch attempt of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS), carrying an unmanned version of its Orion crew module, was cancelled hours ahead of launch — due to a technical glitch with one of the four engines powering the Artemis-I SLS rocket.
The issue happened due to a propellant bleed in one of SLS’ RS-25 engines. Due to this, the engine could not attain the ideal launch temperature that it would have needed, in order to fire according to NASA calculations. The right thrust and power from a rocket engine is critical since any misfire could lead to the rocket achieving a wrong trajectory — which would be fatal to any space mission.
Such an issue is even more fatal to a manned mission, which NASA’s Artemis mission will eventually seek to be.
The first round of the Artemis-I mission involves the SLS, including the Orion crew module, flying to an altitude of 4,000 kilometres above Earth surface. Once it reaches this altitude, the core stage of the rocket will fall back to Earth, sending the Orion module in a trajectory towards the moon.
Orion will then orbit the moon for six days, before making a journey back to Earth. According to the original schedule, Orion is slated to splash back on the ocean some time on October 11.
While the first launch will be unmanned for Orion, it will be tasked with keeping astronauts safe through the mission.
To be sure, such delays are commonplace in space missions. Initial test missions often experience technical glitches, and launch delays can include anything ranging from a technical glitch to bad weather conditions.
After Monday’s failure, NASA reportedly planned a launch for the SLS on Friday, but the latter was cancelled due to a rather slim, two-hour good weather window for a successful launch.
NASA is yet to announce if the technical glitch with the rocket propulsion system has been fixed — but scheduling the next launch date would appear to suggest so.