NASA calls off second try at moon rocket launchpad test

NASA has called off a second attempt at a launch pad test of its next-generation rocket intended for moon missions as part of the Artemis program.

At the so-called “wet-dress rehearsal,” NASA is said to have fueled its powerful Space Launch System (SLS) before performing a mock countdown.

But engineers halted work late Monday afternoon at Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after they noticed a stuck valve on ground equipment linked to the test.

“While cooling the lines in preparation for loading the liquid hydrogen, the teams encountered a problem with a panel on the mobile launch vehicle that controls the core stage vent valve,” NASA explains in a post on its website. “The purpose of the vent valve is to relieve pressure from the core phase during fueling. Given the time to resolve the issue as the teams neared the end of their shifts, the launch director called for testing to be halted for today.”

The space agency said a team will investigate the issue further before setting a new schedule for the test.

Despite the setback, the team said in a tweet that “much learned and progress has been made” during Monday’s efforts.

The first attempt to conduct the wet-dress rehearsal took place on Sunday, April 3, but was called off after a problem was discovered with the missile’s mobile launcher.

NASA’s SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, April 4.

The important rehearsal is the last major test before the unmanned Artemis I launch, which until recently was tentatively scheduled for next month. It’s not clear if the latest issues will affect that proposed date.

During the Artemis I test flight, the SLS rocket will launch the new Orion spacecraft into orbit. Orion will then perform a circumnavigation of the moon before returning to Earth. If all goes according to plan, Artemis II will fly the same path, but this time with a crew on board, while Artemis III, scheduled to launch no earlier than 2024, will place the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in the first manned touchdown since 1972.

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