NASA will attempt another test of its new Space Launch System rocket next month, officials from the agency confirmed this week. After three failed attempts to perform a wet dress rehearsal, in which the rocket is brought out to the launch pad and is filled with fuel, the rocket will remain in its storage building until early to mid June.
Technicians will keep working on the problems uncovered in the previous wet dress rehearsals, the first of which was conducted on Sunday, April 3, while the rocket remains in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center. As reported by SpaceNews, NASA officials said in a teleconference that they had made progress in fixing two of the issues which had arisen during the tests, including replacing a helium check value that had become stuck open during the second test on April 4.
NASA said that the value had been stuck open due to a small piece of rubber in it which stopped it from closing, and they were still investigating where the rubber had come from.
Another issue was a leak of the liquid hydrogen fuel used to power the rocket, which forced the third attempt at the wet dress rehearsal to be called off on April 16. The likely cause of this leak was found to be loose bolts on a gasket, and these had since been tightened up. Cliff Lanham, senior vehicle operations manager for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program, said they think this should fix the leak issue but they won’t know for sure until they try running fuel through the lines once again.
NASA will try to perform the wet dress rehearsal for a fourth time in either early June or mid June, officials said. But they also warned that one more rehearsal may be necessary after this one, to get the rocket ready for its first orbital launch.
The rocket had been tentatively scheduled for launch as part of the Artemis I mission in June this year, but this will now be pushed back to August at the earliest.
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