NASA’s megarocket is standing down from a scheduled test flight to the moon, agency officials announced Monday.
NASA’s uncrewed Space Launch System and Orion capsule had been scheduled to launch for a test flight on the moon. However, engine problems prevented the highly anticipated liftoff.
Engineers detected an issue with one of the fuel lines as the rocket was being loaded with propellant. The rocket’s core-stage engines failed to function properly during the launch countdown. After troubleshooting attempts failed, the test flight was eventually cancelled.
A new launch date has not yet been announced. NASA has backup launch opportunities Sept. 2 and 5, but it’s unclear if engineers will be able to pinpoint the problem and fix it in time to make those dates.
“We don’t launch until it’s right,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on NASA TV after the flight was halted.
The agency said the rocket and spacecraft are currently “in a stable, safe condition,” adding that engineers are gathering data from vehicle on the launch pad.
Monday’s event was to be the first liftoff of the 322-foot-tall Space Launch System, a next-generation booster that NASA says is the “most powerful rocket in the world.” The test flight, known as Artemis I, is designed to test both the huge SLS rocket and Orion capsule before the agency sends astronauts back to the lunar surface. The Artemis I delay is the result of more than 10 years of NASA’s work to create a megarocket capable of surpassing the size and capabilities of the legendary Saturn V rockets.
. In a hearing before the House Science Committee earlier this year NASA Inspector General Paul Martin stated that the agency would likely spend $93 trillion on the Artemis programme, from 2012 up to 2025..
NASA’s return to moon program is named Artemis. It was named for the Greek goddess of mythology, Artemis. As part of the Artemis program, NASA envisions regular missions to the moon to establish a base camp on the lunar surface, before the agency eventually ventures to Mars.
NASA officials have said astronauts could return to the surface of the moon as early as 2025.
Denise Chow is a reporter for NBC News Science focused on general science and climate change.