Explained: Why launch of NASA's giant Artemis I moon mission called off today?
NASA said that timing of the next attempt will be posted soon.
NASA has called off the launch of its giant Moon rocket Artemis I launch today. As per NASA, the launch was called off today as teams work through an issue with an engine bleed. NASA further said that timing of the next attempt will be posted soon.
Earlier, the launch was delayed for T-40 minutes. Prior, NASA had also said that if the countdown clock is halted for any reason, it has set September 2 and September 5 as potential backup launch dates.
The 32-story-tall, two-stage Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion crew capsule were due for blast-off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during a two-hour launch window beginning at 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT).
An engine problem delayed the most powerful rocket yet on an uncrewed test flight to take humans back to the Moon and eventually to Mars. Blastoff, which had been planned for 8:33 am (1233 GMT), was put on hold because of a temperature issue with one of the four engines on the 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the US space agency had said.
Tens of thousands of people -- including US Vice President Kamala Harris had gathered along the beach near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the launch, which comes 50 years after Apollo 17 astronauts last set foot on the Moon.
Overnight operations to fill the rocket with more than three million liters of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen were briefly delayed by a high risk of lightning, though it was a "go" after an hour.
Around 3:00 am, another hiccup emerged: a potential leak was detected during the filling of the main stage with hydrogen, causing a pause.
After tests, the flow resumed.
"The leak is at an acceptable level and we have returned to fast fill operations," NASA had tweeted.
But NASA engineers later detected a problem with the temperature in one of the four engines and put a hold on the countdown. NASA had a two-hour window on Monday to carry out the launch.
The massive orange-and-white rocket, which has been sitting on the space center's Launch Complex 39B for more than a week, is not able to take off in case of rains and storms.
During the 42-day trip, the Orion capsule will orbit the Moon, coming within 60 miles (100 kilometers) at its closest approach, and then fire its engines to shoot out 40,000 miles -- a record for a spacecraft rated to carry humans.
One of the mission's primary objectives is to test the capsule's heat shield, which at 16 feet in diameter is the largest ever built.
On its return to Earth's atmosphere, the heat shield will have to withstand a speed of 25,000 miles per hour and a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) -- or half as hot as the Sun.
The dummies aboard the spacecraft will record acceleration, vibration and radiation levels.
The craft will deploy small satellites to study the lunar surface.
A complete failure would be devastating for a program costing $4.1 billion per launch that is already years behind schedule.
Life on the Moon
The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts into orbit around the Moon without landing on its surface. The crew of Artemis 3 is to land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest.
And since humans have already visited the Moon, Artemis has its sights set on another lofty goal: a crewed mission to Mars.
The Artemis program is to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon with an orbiting space station known as Gateway and a base on the surface.
Gateway would serve as a staging and refueling station for a voyage to Mars that would take a minimum of several months
The Artemis I mission marks a critical moment for NASA and the space industry. It is just the first step toward the future of space exploration. Artemis 1 mission is poised to take a key step toward returning humans to the Moon after a half-century hiatus. The spacecraft is scheduled to travel to the Moon, deploy some small satellites, and then settle into orbit.
Artemis 1 is touted to be the most powerful rocket engine ever flown to space, even more powerful than Apollo’s Saturn V system that took astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and ‘70s.
(With inputs from agencies)
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