Artemis I live blog: NASA scrubs today's scheduled launch due to engine problems

Published August 28, 2022 at 4:59 PM EDT
A cloudy sunrise over a rocket on a launchpad.
NASA
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Getty Images
The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket sits on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Monday.

The launch of NASA’s new mega-moon rocket was postponed after problems with one of the four engines scuttled the effort to lift off for the six-week, uncrewed test mission to orbit the moon.

Depending on the engineers' findings and fixes, the next soonest opportunity to try again would be just after noon on Friday.

Here's what we're following this morning:

Not today

Today's launch has been postponed due to engine problems

Posted August 29, 2022 at 8:45 AM EDT

Artemis I will not be launching today after all, after problems with one of the four engines scuttled the long-anticipated effort to lift off for the six-week, uncrewed test mission to orbit the moon.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the launch director for NASA's Exploration Ground Systems Program, called a scrub for the day just minutes into the scheduled launch window, and about an hour after the countdown clock was put on hold after engineers discovered a fuel leak in one of the rocket's four engines.

The engine failed to get to the right temperature, though the rocket remains in stable configuration, according to NASA's live stream. Engineers are now working on a plan to continue gathering data about the engine issue.

It was one of several problems identified in the lead-up to the planned launch, including a fuel leak and a crack in the foam insulation on the rocket’s main fuel tank.

Depending on the team's findings and fixes, the next soonest opportunity to try again would be just after noon eastern time on Friday.

Complications

Officials have hit pause on the countdown clock

Posted August 29, 2022 at 8:13 AM EDT

The countdown clock is on hold at T-40 minutes, as engineers and Artemis I officials respond to issues that are threatening to delay the highly anticipated rocket launch. They have identified a problem with one of the four engines and discovered fuel leaks during final liftoff preparations.

The unplanned pause was supposed to last for 10 minutes but is fast approaching the hour mark.

If today's launch is postponed, the next opportunity for launch would be this Friday.

Hype

The highly anticipated event is drawing huge crowds to Florida

Posted August 29, 2022 at 8:01 AM EDT
People with cameras and tripods stand facing the rocket against a pink sky.
Gregg Newton
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AFP via Getty Images
Press photographers set up to over the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket mission at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday.

There's a lot of excitement in the air — and on the ground — today in Brevard County, Fla., home to NASA's Kennedy Space Center and today's scheduled Artemis I launch.

County officials estimate some 200,000 people are visiting the Space Coast for the launch, according to Brendan Byrne, the space reporter for NPR member station WMFE in Orlando. Hotels have sold out, and people began camping out over the weekend for a good spot to watch the launch.

Some VIPs are expected to be in attendance, he adds, including Vice President Harris and a handful of NASA astronauts.

"In a sense, the anticipation for this began building back to 1972," Byrne tellsMorning Edition from the Kennedy Space Center. "That's the last time people stepped foot on the lunar surface."

The long-awaited launch may be delayed even further, as engineers work this morning to troubleshoot leaks and a possible crack in the spacecraft. Click hereto follow Byrne on Twitter for live updates as the launch window approaches.

From Cape Canaveral

Leaks and a possible crack threaten to delay NASA's moon launch

Posted August 29, 2022 at 7:47 AM EDT

Fuel leaks during final liftoff preparations threatened to postpone the launch of NASA’s mighty new moon rocket Monday morning on its shakedown flight with three test dummies aboard.

As precious minutes ticked away, NASA repeatedly stopped and started the fueling of the Space Launch System rocket with nearly 1 million gallons of super-cold hydrogen and oxygen because of a leak. The fueling already was running nearly an hour late because of thunderstorms off Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The leak of highly explosive hydrogen appeared in the same place that saw seepage during a dress rehearsal back in the spring.

Then a second apparent hydrogen leak turned up in a valve that had caused trouble in June but that NASA thought it had fixed, officials said.

Later in the morning, NASA officials spotted what they feared was a crack or some other defect on the core stage — the big orange fuel tank with four main engines on it — but they later said it appeared to be just a buildup of frost.

The rocket was set to lift off on a mission to put a crew capsule into orbit around the moon. The launch represents a milestone in America's quest to put astronauts back on the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo program ended 50 years ago.

Getting ready

The rocket's liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks are now full

Posted August 29, 2022 at 7:28 AM EDT

With just about three hours to go until the start of the launch window, NASA announced that the rocket's liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) tanks have been filled.

That process involves filling the rocket's core stage and then the interim cryogenic propulsion stage, as NASA explains. The LOX tank holds 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen, cooled to minus 297 degrees F.

"In sequential fashion, LOX and LH2 will flow into the rocket’s core stage tank and be topped off and replenished as some of the cryogenic propellant boils off," it says.

In a 6:30 a.m. ET update, the agency announced that as that process continues, engineers are troubleshooting two issues, including a conditioning issue affecting Engine 3.

"Teams also are assessing what appears to be a crack in the thermal protection system material on one of the flanges on the core stage," it added. "The flanges are connection joints that function like a seam on a shirt, are affixed at the top and bottom of the intertank so the two tanks can be attached to it."

Core stage propellant loading continues despite leak

Posted August 29, 2022 at 5:28 AM EDT

The Artemis team experienced a leak while loading propellant into the rocket, using quantities of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen, NASA said.

NASA had begun filling the core stage tank with liquid oxygen, the first step in the “tanking” process, and had begun adding liquid nitrogen to the tank, when amounts of the substance began to spill over into another part of the rocket.

“Although a similar issue was identified in an earlier wet dress rehearsal, it may not necessarily be the same cause,” NASA said.

Engineers began manually cooling off the liquid hydrogen and resumed loading the propellant into the rocket. As of 4:50 a.m. ET, the liquid oxygen tank was more than 80% full, and the liquid nitrogen tank was about 61% full.

TIL
All aboard

Meet the 'crew' of Artemis I

Posted August 29, 2022 at 2:01 AM EDT
A manikin dubbed Commander Moonikin Campos will be aboard the Artemis 1 spacecraft.
NASA
A manikin dubbed Commander Moonikin Campos will be aboard the Artemis 1 spacecraft.

Just because humans won't be on Artemis I doesn't mean the spacecraft will be empty.

Here are a few members of the "crew":

  • Commander Moonikin Campos is a manikin that will have sensors under its seat to measure acceleration and vibration
  • Helga and Zohar are what NASA calls phantoms — manikin torsos made of materials that mimic human bones and soft tissues
  • Snoopy — rather, a plush toy of the cartoon dog — will serve as a zero gravity indicator

The purpose of Artemis I is to gather information to assess how NASA can safely send humans on the Artemis II and Artemis III spacecrafts.

NASA TV coverage begins as the 'go' signal is given to load propellent

Posted August 29, 2022 at 1:51 AM EDT

The Artemis mission management team has received the green light to begin loading the rocket with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, a process known as “tanking.” Artemis Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson gave the "go" signal early Monday morning.

The liquid oxygen is first cooled to minus 97 degrees Fahrenheit, and then loaded into the rocket’s propellant lines, which function like umbilical cords. The liquid oxygen tank holds 196,000 pounds of the substance. The oxygen and liquid hydrogen are then loaded into the rocket’s core stage tank, and replenished as the propellant boils off.

Earlier in the morning, the Artemis launch team temporarily postponed the tanking process due to some lightning in the area.

NASA's television coverage is now underway at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

TIL
🚀

4 reasons to go back to the moon

Posted August 28, 2022 at 11:01 PM EDT
The Apollo 11 mission took mankind to the moon in 1969. Decades later, NASA hopes the Artemis mission will do the same.
NASA
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AFP via Getty Images
The Apollo 11 mission took mankind to the moon in 1969. Decades later, NASA hopes the Artemis mission will do the same.

NASA is getting ready to head back to the moon sixty years after President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge to land Americans on the lunar surface.

But why?

These are the key things to know:

  1. There's a lot of science to be done on the moon — including work that affects our understanding of Earth.
  2. It's a stepping stone to Mars — which is at least 200 times farther from our planet than the moon.
  3. It could spur new technologies — many things created for space and lunar travel brought substantial benefits to us non-astronauts, like hand-held computers and insulin pumps.
  4. It has the potential to inspire a generation of engineers and scientists — a 2009Naturesurvey said the Apollo program deserves credit "for motivating a large fraction of today's scientists."
On the menu

Krispy Kreme has a special doughnut for the special day

Posted August 28, 2022 at 9:00 PM EDT
 Krispy Kreme is launching the Artemis Moon Doughnut for one day.
Business Wire
Krispy Kreme is launching the Artemis Moon Doughnut for one day.

Say hello to the "Artemis Moon Doughnut"!

Krispy Kreme announced participating stores will sell the lunar-themed treat on Monday as a one-day special. It's a cheesecake-flavored filled doughnut dipped in cookies and cream icing.

The More You Know
Money

The rocket's big price tag has raised concerns

Posted August 28, 2022 at 7:05 PM EDT

Building the Artemis I rocket — and the two flights that are planned to follow — is not cheap.

NASA Inspector-General Paul Martin recently told lawmakers that each flight will cost more than $4 billion.

"Relying on such an expensive, single-use rocket system will, in our judgment, inhibit if not derail NASA's ability to sustain its long-term human exploration goals to the moon and Mars," he said.

In the private sector, SpaceX has created its own rocket, a stainless steel beast called Starship. It's meant to be inexpensive and fully reusable.

A former NASA official says if Starship flies, that could mean the end of the space agency's rocket and the Orion capsule.

Weather

Lightning strikes aren't stopping the planned launch — yet

Posted August 28, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
Storm clouds roll in over the NASA moon rocket as it stands ready for launch at the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
John Raoux
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AP
Storm clouds roll in over the NASA moon rocket as it stands ready for launch at the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Lightning hit towers around the launch pad in Florida where NASA's new moon rocket is waiting to blast off. But the space agency says the rocket appears to be fine.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., has a lot of experience with lightning storms. The launch pad is surrounded by tall towers and wires that direct lighting away. Jeff Spaulding, a senior test director at NASA, said on Sunday that the launch pad's protection system registered five lightning events but the rocket and its crew capsule were not damaged.

"The bottom line is, we look really good. No issues, concerns or constraints from the lightning events at this point," he told reporters.

NASA officials are working toward a launch window that opens at 8:33 a.m. ET Monday.

Member Station Reports
The timeline

NASA has big plans for the Artemis program

Posted August 28, 2022 at 5:01 PM EDT

This week's scheduled launch is intended to be the first in a series of rockets that will eventually take humans back to the moon.

NASA is targeting three possible dates, starting with Monday, to send deep space vehicle Artemis I on a mission around the moon back. On this trip, the craft will carry mannequins as the mission is intended to test critical systems.

"This is the first time that we're going to try and launch this vehicle. We're going to be careful," NASA's Jim Free told WMFE's Brendan Byrne this summer.