Artemis I live updates: NASA scrubs its launch a second time

Published September 3, 2022 at 9:00 AM EDT
NASA's Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.
Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images
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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 again Saturday after persistent leaks of liquid hydrogen fuel. It was the second delay this week. The mission is set to take a nearly six-week, uncrewed flight path around the moon.

Here's what to know about the Artemis I mission:

NASA calls off second launch of Artemis I rocket after recurring fuel leak

Posted September 3, 2022 at 11:22 AM EDT

Artemis will not fly today.

NASA scrubbed the second planned launch of the rocket late Saturday morning after a recurring leak of liquid hydrogen fuel.

The agency announced the decision by Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson around 11:19 a.m. ET.

No-go?

Launch team recommends no-go for Artemis but official word is yet to come

Posted September 3, 2022 at 11:06 AM EDT

The Artemis launch team has recommended a no-go for the flight set for Saturday afternoon following a series of unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak of liquid hydrogen fuel.

An official decision to scrap the launch by Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson has not been announced.

Problems persist

A liquid hydrogen fuel leak has recurred after three NASA attempts to fix it

Posted September 3, 2022 at 10:53 AM EDT

NASA teams say they are discussing how to proceed after a leak of liquid hydrogen continues despite three attempts to stop it.

The first leak was announced around 7:24 a.m. Saturday morning. Staffers subsequently warmed up a quick disconnect in the engine section to attempt to reseal the area and resumed flowing fuel.

Then around 8:53 a.m. the agency announced that, as it increased pressure on the flow of liquid hydrogen, the leak occurred again. This time NASA tried to fix the leak by applying pressure with helium and resumed sending fuel.

At 9:36 a.m. officials said the leak came back for a third time. NASA again warmed the quick disconnect in the engine section (like it had after the first leak) and continued the flow of liquid hydrogen fuel.

That, too, failed to stop the leak. At 10:28 a.m. NASA said the leak had returned for a fourth time.

“Teams are discussing next steps,” the agency said.

Problems before launch

NASA is troubleshooting a liquid hydrogen fuel leak

Posted September 3, 2022 at 9:21 AM EDT

As it prepares for this afternoon's launch of the uncrewed Artemis moon mission, NASA has been dealing with a recurring leak of liquid hydrogen fuel.

At 7:24 ET, NASA said that engineers detected a liquid hydrogen leak in a quick disconnect cavity and had "stopped flowing the propellant to the core stage while they troubleshoot."

Shortly after 8 a.m., NASA said controllers had resumed the flow of liquid hydrogen "after warming up a quick disconnect in the engine section where a hydrogen leak was detected in the cavity between the ground and flight side plates of the quick disconnect."

But minutes later, NASA said a leak reoccurred as engineers increased the pressure on the flow.

"Engineers will attempt to reseat the seal in the quick disconnect cavity where the leak has been detected," NASA said. "This time they will stop flowing liquid hydrogen to the tank, close the valve used to fill and drain it, then increase pressure on a ground transfer line using helium" to try to reseal it."

"Launch controllers are continuing to flow liquid oxygen to the core stage," it added.

TIL
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4 reasons to go back to the moon

Posted September 3, 2022 at 8:56 AM EDT

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."
Money

The rocket's big price tag has raised concerns

Posted September 3, 2022 at 8:56 AM 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.

Backstory

What's in a name? In this case, lots of symbolism

Posted September 3, 2022 at 8:49 AM EDT
A screen displays the name "Artemis" across a picture of the moon, against a backdrop of blue water and sky.
Chandan Khanna
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AFP via Getty Images
Launch Pad Complex 39B is seen behind a screen displaying NASA's Artemis I Moon logo at Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in August.

NASA named its first missions to the moon after Apollo, the Greek god of light, prophecy, archery and music.

Now, five decades later, Apollo's twin sister Artemis — the goddess of hunting, nature and the moon — is set to go over further.

"She personifies our path to the Moon as the name of NASA's efforts to return astronauts and a new wave of science payloads and technology demonstrations to the lunar surface," the agency says. "When they land, American astronauts will step foot where no human has ever been before: the Moon’s South Pole."

The Artemis missions, which begin with Saturday's scheduled uncrewed launch, eventually aim to land the first woman and person of color on the moon — constituting another giant leap for humankind.

What it took

Take a look at what it took to get Artemis I in a position to launch

Posted September 3, 2022 at 8:48 AM EDT

NASA has compiled a series of photos showing what it took to position Artemis I in Florida for launch.

Fred Deaton/PM Credit
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DIGITAL STILL IMAGE
NASA
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NASA/Joel Kowsky/(NASA/Joel Kowsky)
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(NASA/Joel Kowsky)
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