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NASA’s next test of its new rocket is set for June

NASA has set a date for the next test of its new rocket, the Space Launch System, and the accompanying Orion spacecraft. The rocket will begin being moved to launch pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 6, with tanking operations for the wet dress rehearsal set for June 19.

This will be NASA’s fourth attempt at the wet dress rehearsal, in which the rocket is rolled out to the launch pad and filled with liquid fuel, then a launch countdown is performed, then the rocket’s fuel tanks are drained. This tests that the rocket is ready for its actual first launch and that the countdown clock can be recycled if necessary.

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An image of NASA’s moon rocket at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building for a 4.2-mile journey to Launch Complex 39B on March 17, 2022.
An image of NASA’s moon rocket at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building for a 4.2-mile journey to Launch Complex 39B on March 17, 2022. NASA/Kim Shiflett

Previous attempts at this test have uncovered a variety of small issues which NASA described as nuisances rather than major problems. NASA announced this week that it hoped to pin down a date for the next test as engineers have been working on fixing these minor issues.

For now, the rocket is still in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) near the launch pad, where engineers have been performing various tasks. In an update, NASA said that teams have now met several objectives, including checking up on a fuel line that was leaking liquid hydrogen fuel during one test, replacing a check valve that had been stuck open in another test, and making changes to a system called the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) in which a rubber O-ring had come loose.

With these jobs done, the engineers are now preparing the rocket to be rolled back out onto the launch pad for the test. “The hatches, or access points, of the crew module and launch abort system are now closed in preparation for rollout,” NASA wrote.

“Engineers installed rain gutters on the crew access area to help prevent moisture from entering the crew module while the spacecraft and rocket are at the launch pad. Teams have started retracting the service platforms that surround the Moon rocket and spacecraft in the VAB for rollout configuration ahead of their return to the launch pad.”

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