While the hype was real for today’s historic launch attempt of Artemis 1, today was just not the day. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know the severity of the issues that eventually put the nail in the coffin for today’s launch, but we should hopefully know soon.
Issue during engine bleed test scrubs Artemis 1 launch
The T-minus clock made it as far as T-40 minutes, however, that was never the real launch time due to earlier fueling problems. Riddled with issues, the final one that caused NASA’s Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson to scrub the attempt took place during Artemis 1’s engine bleed test.
The bleed test was scrapped from the wet dress rehearsal due to a leak in a hydrogen quick disconnect fitting, so this ended up being the first time it was performed on SLS. Well, it seemed like it was needed, because Engine 3, an engine that flew to the International Space Station several times during the shuttle program, had issues reaching the appropriate levels during the bleed test.
After an hour-long hold at T-40 minutes, which was supposed to be only ten minutes, it was announced that Artemis 1 had scrubbed for the day. However, teams are still figuring out why engine 3 was having issues.
Everybody wanted to see the rocket today, I’m a little disappointed but I wish I could say I’m surprised but I’m not really surprised. This is a brand new vehicle, there are a million parts and all of them have to work perfectly. First time we’ve ever done this and as it turned out we found out some things about our rocket we weren’t aware of. So we’re going to look into the data [and] figure out what the techincal issue was and then figure when we can go flying again.Stan Love, NASA Astronaut
Fueling leaks delayed the launch at the start
Fueling began around 2:00 a.m. on Monday, with liquid oxygen flowing into the Core Stage’s tank. The process went smoothly until hydrogen had to be added to the mix, and our old friend, the quick disconnect fitting, began to leak again. The issue was fixed by basically turning it off and on again a few times: stop fueling, re-chill the pipes, and restart fueling.
Once fixed, fueling continued without a hitch. By the time Artemis 1 scrubbed, the SLS rocket was almost fully fueled for launch.
Crack near launch vehicle stage adapter
For the most part, the media got the same coverage as the general public, listening to a NASA Public Affairs Officer relay what was happening in mission control. This led to confusion about when items were resolved or still being investigated. It also caused some panic when he mentioned a crack in the stage adapter.
It turns out it was not a crack in the structural part of the stage adapter, which connects the Core Stage to the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, but a crack in the foam surrounding the Core Stage. This was deemed acceptable as the Space Shuttle ran into similar issues.
It’s expected. The foam is there to keep the ultra cold propellent in the aluminum tanks from forming a lot of frost on the outside of the vehicle. Whenever you fill a metal tank with liquid at 400 degrees below zero there’s gonna be expansion and contraction of that tank and the foam on the outside also expands and contracts. So cracks are something we’re use too and we looked at that particuare crack and the teams decided that that was not a constraight to fly.Stan Love, NASA Astronaut
Next launch attempt post-Artemis 1 scrub
The biggest question going through everyone’s head is when will Artemis 1 launch now? Well, that’s a hard question to answer before we get the proper information from NASA, but the soonest it can launch is September 2 at 12:48 p.m. EDT. However, we don’t yet know if NASA’s launch team will use that launch attempt. The August/September launch window lasts until September 5. If NASA can’t launch by then, the next window will open on September 19.
Featured Image: Daryl Saussé / Space Explored