NASA eyes late September for another Artemis I launch attempt

NASA eyes late September for another Artemis I launch attempt

After repeated delays, NASA is lightly penciling in launch dates of September 23rd or 27th for its Artemis I mission. A lot of things will have to go right for either of those dates to be possible, including repairs to the rocket’s fueling system, a sign-off from the Space Force, and managing to avoid an assortment of space scheduling conflicts.

Artemis 1 will be the launch of the Space Launch System (SLS), the agency’s large rocket. It will take Orion, a spacecraft named Orion into orbit well beyond the Moon. This mission will be uncrewed and serve as a test for later missions that will send astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in decades.

After a hydrogen leak foiled NASA’s third attempt to launch the mission on September 3rd, NASA decided to do repairs while staying on the launchpad. They will be replacing seals on the connection between the rocket and the fuel lines that send liquid hydrogen fuel into the rocket. Staying on the pad will let the team test the new seals in cryogenic temperatures, mimicking conditions that would take place during an actual launch.

They are currently targeting September 17th for that key cryogenic test, which only leaves a few days before that first launch window opens on the 23rd. They will need to wait approximately four days before a successful launch attempt or test, according to Mike Bolger (Exploration Ground Systems manager at Kennedy Space Center).

Aside from the immediate need to repair and test the seals, there are also some other major issues that may affect NASA’s ability to get Artemis I off the ground this month. The flight termination system is a safety system that allows for the destruction of rockets if they go wrong at launch.

It is a critical safety system for dealing with large rockets and missiles. It must be operational at launch. The Space Force is in charge of launches within the Eastern Range, where NASA is attempting to launch the rocket. The Space Force requires the certification of the flight termination systems’ batteries at launch. This can only be accomplished at the Vehicle Assembly Building located four miles away (and several hours) from the launchpad.

NASA has already received one extension to the certification of their system, which gave them some breathing space during earlier launches. However, that waiver is now expired and they must apply for another extension. The Space Force will ultimately decide if the launch is safe and can proceed without being redirected to the VAB.

Then, there are all the other things going on in space. The SLS must now contend with the schedules of other missions, as NASA missed late August/early September launch windows. The agency chose the 23rd and the 27th to avoid conflicts with NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which is scheduled to slam into an asteroid on September 26th. There’s also a crew scheduled to travel to the ISS in early October. The next opportunity to launch may be in October . if Artemis I fails to make it to the ISS.

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