Why did NASA cancel the attempted launch of the Artemis lunar mission?

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Artemis moon mission

After two previously canceled launch attempts, NASA will not launch a spacecraft around the moon this week, officials said during a news conference Saturday night.

As a result, the team will likely transport the massive 322-foot Space Launch System rocket back to its hangar, the Vehicle Assembly Building, and possibly attempt to reach the moon again in October. The US space agency is nearing a no-launch period and cannot interfere with a SpaceX flight that will soon send humans to the International Space Station.

Another challenge for Artemis I is that the rocket’s flight termination system, which uses explosives to detonate it if it strays off course, must be tested again after 25 days. However, NASA can ask the spaceport for a certification extension so it can try to launch earlier.

Mike Sarafin, the manager of the Artemis lunar mission, stated that unless a waiver is granted, “it’s a reversal scenario.”

“We’ll go when it’s ready.” NASA administrator @SenBillNelson comments on the launch attempt on 3 September #Sagebrush Test flight to the Moon. Team updates are expected starting at 4 pm ET (20:00 UTC). https://t.co/dMVnvEQcfC pic.twitter.com/ClBhVRexLs

—NASA (@NASA) September 3, 2022

In about a week, mission leaders will announce next actions after considering all available options. Before the rocket takes off, engineers and technicians can work on the platform.

On Saturday shortly after 11 a.m., launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson decided to postpone the second launch attempt because engineers were unable to control a significant fuel leak. According to Sarafin, the amount of liquid hydrogen that leaked was two to three times the amount allowed. There is a significant risk of flammability when air contains high concentrations of hydrogen. As for the management of the leak, he said, “it was pretty apparent that we weren’t going to be able to fix it like we did on Monday.”

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The reason for the leak is currently being analyzed by NASA. The investigation team will examine the likelihood that inadvertent fuel line overpressure earlier in the morning was the root of the problem.

The team unexpectedly ran into a comparatively smaller liquid hydrogen leak, an engine that did not appear to be cooling properly, and unfavorable weather during the initial launch attempt on Monday, August 29. Later, NASA investigated the engine. problem and concluded that the problem was a bad sensor, not improperly cooled fuel. The group decided to try again on Saturday based on their confidence.

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