NASA makes progress fixing SLS moon rocket

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Engineers are making advancement resolving mostly ground-system problems that derailed 3 earlier attempts to substance the agency's caller Space Launch System satellite rocket for a formal rehearsal countdown. NASA managers said Thursday they're hopeful astir making a 4th effort by mid June.

If each goes good with the adjacent "wet formal rehearsal," oregon WDR, countdown test, NASA whitethorn beryllium capable to property up for a long-awaited maiden motorboat successful the August timeframe. But nary people dates volition beryllium acceptable until aft a palmy fueling trial and the solution of immoderate different issues that mightiness harvest up.

"We'll acceptable that authoritative motorboat day aft we get done bedewed dress," said Jim Free, manager of Exploration Systems Development astatine NASA Headquarters. "But based connected immoderate of the humanities challenges from akin programs implicit the years and the show that we've seen frankincense far, we are looking astatine a mates of motorboat periods done the August timeframe."

040122-pad-shot2.jpg NASA's Space Launch System satellite rocket atop pad 39B astatine the Kennedy Space Center earlier the archetypal of 3 unsuccessful fueling tests. The rocket and its mobile motorboat level are present undergoing repairs and inspections successful the Vehicle Assembly Building earlier a 4th attempt. NASA

He said the squad remains optimistic based connected the results of troubleshooting to date.

A jammed valve successful the rocket's 2nd signifier has been replaced, the probable origin of a motorboat level hydrogen leak has been identified and an off-site vendor is moving to implicit upgrades to a pipeline strategy that volition present capable flame-suppressing gaseous nitrogen to the pad to "safe" the rocket during fueling.

If those issues tin beryllium afloat resolved, Free said the immense rocket could beryllium hauled backmost retired to pad 39B astatine the Kennedy Space Center by the extremity of the month, mounting the signifier for a 4th fueling trial successful aboriginal to mid June.

After the test, whenever it occurs, the SLS rocket volition beryllium moved backmost to NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building for servicing earlier it's returned to the pad for motorboat connected its maiden flight, sending an unpiloted Orion unit capsule beyond the satellite and back.

But Free warned the issues are analyzable and it's imaginable much than 1 tanking trial volition beryllium required to thoroughly trial the analyzable systems successful the SLS rocket and their enactment with the crushed systems that supply propellants, powerfulness and different captious elements.

He said the August motorboat windows would "allow america to bash 2 bedewed formal rehearsal attempts if we request them."

"We are optimistic that we lone request 1 much based connected everything we've been capable to bash frankincense acold to good tune our tanking procedures," helium said. "But we besides privation to beryllium realistic and upfront with you that it whitethorn instrumentality much than 1 effort to get the procedures wherever we request them."

Equipped with 2 extended solid-fuel boosters and a halfway signifier powered by 4 modified abstraction shuttle main engines, the 322-foot-tall SLS rocket volition make a ground-shaking 8.8 cardinal pounds of thrust astatine liftoff, much than the legendary Saturn 5 rocket that launched Apollo astronauts to the satellite 50 years ago.

The SLS rocket was hauled retired to motorboat pad 39B connected March 18, setting the signifier for a dress-rehearsal countdown to verify fuel-loading procedures, to signifier recycle options and to transportation retired the myriad different steps required to safely motorboat the elephantine rocket.

While the shuttle-heritage exertion is familiar, the SLS carries much ultra-cold liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants —730,000 gallons — temperatures and pressures are antithetic and the countdown steps to negociate the analyzable systems utilize caller bundle and procedures.

The wet-dress countdown, oregon WDR, is intended to trial each aspects of the motorboat system, utilizing the aforesaid steps that volition beryllium followed connected motorboat day.

Three earlier attempts to load the rocket with propellants were interrupted by a assortment of mostly ground-system problems including insufficient gaseous nitrogen, a jammed helium cheque valve successful the rocket's 2nd signifier and the hydrogen leak successful an umbilical fitting attached to the archetypal stage.

The helium valve failed to enactment decently due to the fact that of a tiny spot of rubber debris was lodged successful the mechanism. The valve has been replaced, but engineers are inactive trying to find the root of the debris.

The hydrogen leak seemingly resulted from less-than-optimum compression connected 2 seals successful a motorboat level umbilical. Engineers person tightened those fittings arsenic good arsenic akin fittings successful different umbilicals.

While the provender enactment present appears leak-free astatine country temperatures, engineers won't cognize however it performs nether ultra-cold cryogenic temperatures until the adjacent effort to load the SLS with propellants.

In: Artemis program NASA

William Harwood

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Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. abstraction programme full-time since 1984, archetypal arsenic Cape Canaveral bureau main for United Press International and present arsenic a advisor for CBS News. He covered 129 abstraction shuttle missions, each interplanetary formation since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and scores of commercialized and subject launches. Based astatine the Kennedy Space Center successful Florida, Harwood is simply a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."

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