Skip to main content

NASA completes prelaunch test of its mega moon rocket

NASA has completed what may have been the final ground test of its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket before its much-anticipated maiden mission to the moon.

It comes after a failed attempt at the same so-called “wet dress rehearsal” in April, when a number of issues caused the test to be called off.

Monday’s crucial test took place at Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, starting in the morning and concluding at 7:37 p.m. ET.

The entire procedure took about 12 hours and marked the first time for the SLS rocket’s propellant tanks to be fully loaded with fuel. The test ended with a mock countdown, a critical period of any rocket launch when many activities take place in rapid succession.

Today's #Artemis I wet dress rehearsal activities concluded after a modified countdown configuration and successfully adding propellant to the rocket. We will review the data and are meeting to discuss next steps. For updates:

— NASA (@NASA) June 21, 2022

As the test has only just finished, information on how it went is scarce. Indeed, NASA is now analyzing the data gathered during the test to determine if it can launch the rocket and Orion spacecraft toward the moon in late August, or if more work needs to be carried out on the vehicle.

An initial NASA report released about an hour after the test finished suggested that overall it went well, though it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

The agency said that during propellant loading operations early on Monday, engineers spotted a hydrogen leak in a component that attaches an umbilical from the tail service mast on the mobile launcher to the SLS rocket’s core stage. April’s test also featured a hydrogen leak though it’s not yet clear if the two issues are linked.

NASA said it tried to repair Monday’s leak using a warming and chilling process to realign the seals, but the effort failed. Determined to proceed with the test, engineers found a way to mask the leak-related data that in a real launch situation would have prompted the computer to pause the countdown.

The engineers’ actions enabled the team to “resume with the final 10 minutes of the countdown, called terminal count. During the terminal count, the teams performed several critical operations that must be accomplished for launch including switching control from the ground launch sequencer to the automated launch sequencer controlled by the rocket’s flight software, an important step that the team wanted to accomplish.”

The test clearly went better than the effort in April, but NASA will have to address the valve problem, among other issues that may have surfaced during Monday’s procedure.

NASA will provide a full account of the test at a media teleconference at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, June 21. You can watch the broadcast on the video player below or via NASA’s website.

The space agency will use the SLS rocket to power the Orion spacecraft on an uncrewed flyby of the moon in the Artemis I mission, which could launch in late August. Artemis II will send a crew on the same flight path, while Artemis III will put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in a mission that will herald a new era of human space exploration.

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
It’s one giant leap for fashion as Prada spacesuits head to the moon
An illustration showing astronauts on the moon.

When NASA’s two Artemis astronauts step onto the lunar surface in the next few years, the world will be watching. The highly anticipated mission will mark the first crewed landing in more than five decades and will see the first woman and first person of color reaching the lunar surface.

And so with all that attention, the astronauts will want to be looking their absolute best.

Read more
NASA’s Artemis moon astronauts suit up for mission practice run
NASA's crew for the Artemis II lunar mission.

The four Artemis II astronauts who will embark on a flyby of the moon in November next year successfully conducted a pre-launch practice run on Wednesday.

In line with launch day procedures, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Victor Glover, and Reid Wiseman, along with Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen, started the day by waking up inside the crew quarters at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Read more
Here’s where NASA will land astronauts on the moon
Shrouded in permanent darkness, the interior of Shackleton crater near the moon’s south pole is revealed in this stunning mosaic. The crater itself was captured by ShadowCam, a NASA instrument designed to peer into the shadowy parts of the lunar surface that has been orbiting the moon for almost a year on the South Korean spacecraft Danuri. The surrounding areas were imaged by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. Portions of three of the 13 potential landing regions for astronauts during Artemis III can be seen in this image.

A new image of the moon's far side shows the region selected for the landing of NASA's Artemis III mission, which aims to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time in over 50 years. The mission will be to the moon's south pole, a region of particular scientific interest because it is thought to host water ice in permanently shadowed craters.

NASA has partnered with National Geographic to release a mosaic image of the Shackleton Crater, located at the moon's south pole. The image of the crater was captured using NASA's ShadowCam instrument on the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter spacecraft, with additional images of the surrounding area coming from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It's one of the permanently shadowed craters in the region, meaning it could potentially hold water ice. The crater is also close to several of the potential landing sites.

Read more