Saturday brought another launch scratch for the Artemis I mission.
Technical issues caused delays on Saturday and eventually robbed spectators in Cape Canaveral, Florida — and around the country — of something Americans haven’t seen in more than 50 years: a launch to kick off a NASA program to send humans to the moon. A similar situation unfolded during the first launch attempt on Monday, Aug. 29.
The space agency’s attempt for a rescheduled launch of the crewless Orion capsule on Saturday afternoon was first halted at about 9 a.m. ET as engineers began attempting to fix a hydrogen fuel leak in the engine section at the rocket’s bottom.
When the launch team could not successfully stop the leak, NASA officials scrubbed the Saturday liftoff at about 11:20 a.m. EDT.
The NASA rocket had been set to launch the Artemis I mission on Monday from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, the same launch site that saw the Apollo missions send humans to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s.
When that attempt was delayed, NASA aimed for Saturday, which had a favorable weather forecast, for the next launch attempt.
Artemis I is the first in a series of missions over the coming years with the goal of putting astronauts on the moon again and lay a foundation for sending humans to Mars, NASA has said.
Why was Artemis I launch scrapped?
Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson and the launch team were faced with another hydrogen fuel leak. Monday’s attempt was also cancelled due to escaping hydrogen, but Saturday’s came on another part of the 322-foot rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA.
The team tried twice to stop and restart the flow of super-cold liquid hydrogen in hopes of completing the seal and ending the leak. They also flushed helium through the line, but the leak remained.
Artemis Mission Manager Michael Serafin said the leak earlier this week “was a manageable leak. This was not a manageable leak.”
NASA Artemis I moon launch schedule
NASA has yet to determine a new launch window for the mission, but officials said Artemis I will not launch before Tuesday, when a two-week launch blackout period kicks in.
“We do not launch until we think it’s right,” said the NASA administrator, former Sen. Bill Nelson.
Officials will have more information early next week, said Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development James Free.
The rocket must be transported four miles to the Vehicle Assembly Building rather than worked on at the launch pad, officials said Saturday afternoon.
NASA currently has an Oct. 3 SpaceX launch scheduled to send a crew to the International Space Station. Free said the overlap would need to be reconciled, and may put Artemis I’s launch to later in October.
The mission around the moon and back is expected to take 39 days. Splashdown for the Orion spacecraft had been expected for Oct. 11, according to NASA.
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Contributing: The Associated Press