NASA’s Artemis I mega moon rocket test halted for second time

By Katie Hunt and Ashley Strickland, CNN

The second attempt at the final and crucial pre-launch test for NASA’s Artemis I mission to the Moon was canceled on Monday.

The wet dress rehearsal, as NASA calls it, simulates every stage of the launch without the rocket actually leaving the launch pad.

This includes powering up the 322-foot (98-meter-tall) Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, loading supercold propellant into the rocket’s tanks, performing a full countdown simulating the launch, resetting the countdown clock and draining the rocket’s fuel tanks.

The test was originally scheduled to end on Sunday but was suspended before the propellant was loaded. This was due to problems with two fans used to provide pressure to the mobile launcher – the mobile tower that the rocket sits on before lifting off.

NASA said Monday it was able to fix the malfunctioning fans, which are needed to pressurize closed areas inside the launch vehicle and keep out dangerous gases, overnight.

However, the rehearsal was halted for the second time on Monday due to a vent valve issue, NASA announced via Twitter.

“Due to the vent valve issue, the launch director has canceled the test for the day. The team is preparing to unload LOX and will begin discussing how quickly the vehicle can be returned for the next attempt. Lots of learning and progress today.

Sunday’s delay came after the rocket withstood four lightning strikes during a powerful thunderstorm at Kennedy Space Center on Saturday. However, the ventilator issue that forced Sunday’s delay was not believed to be storm-related, NASA said.

The results of the dress rehearsal will determine when the uncrewed Artemis I embarks on a mission that will go beyond the moon and back to Earth. The uncrewed mission is expected to launch in June or July.

This mission will launch NASA’s Artemis program, which is expected to return humans to the Moon and land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface by 2025.

During the flight, the uncrewed Orion spacecraft will launch atop the SLS rocket to reach the moon and travel thousands of miles beyond – further than any spacecraft intended to carry humans has ever travel. This mission should last a few weeks and will end with the grounding of Orion in the Pacific Ocean.

Artemis I will be Orion’s final proving ground before the spacecraft whisks astronauts to the Moon, 1,000 times farther from Earth than where the International Space Station is located.

Following the uncrewed flight of Artemis I, Artemis II will be a crewed flyby of the moon, and Artemis III will return astronauts to the lunar surface. The timing of subsequent mission launches depends on the results of the Artemis I mission.

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