NASA Will Try to Send the Artemis 1 to the Moon Again on September 23

NASA needs to fix two fuel leaks and will require a waiver for a system failsafe to launch the Artemis 1 in September.

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NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft on the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, as seen on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft on the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, as seen on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA’s return to the moon via the Artemis 1 was scrapped on September 3 due to a hydrogen leak, but the agency has been busy repairing the megarocket for its next launch attempt. Now, after days of repairs and diagnostics, NASA says the next Artemis 1 launch could come as early as Friday, September 23 or a few days afterward on Tuesday, September 27.

The upcoming Artemis 1 launch attempt is tentative for now, pending further repairs, tests and approval for the next launch window at the Kennedy Space Center. But according to Space, NASA has to get a lot right within the next few days to even attempt to get Artemis 1 off the ground.

After the launch was officially called off last Saturday, NASA technicians built a protective enclosure on Launch Pad 39B where the Artemis 1 has sat since August. The makeshift enclosure provides protection for the rocket’s hardware, and a place for NASA engineers to conduct repairs on-site.

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Image for article titled NASA Will Try to Send the Artemis 1 to the Moon Again on September 23
Photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Engineers started repairs by disconnecting the ground- and rocket-side plates of the interface where the leak was found. The leak that grounded the launch was coming from one of the Artemis 1's quick disconnects. Specifically, the interface for the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line.

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Another, smaller leak has persistently plagued the Artemis 1 since late August, and NASA is fixing both leaks ahead of the next launch. Engineers have been running tests on the quick disconnect interface and are currently replacing two seals — “one surrounding the 8-inch line used to fill and drain liquid hydrogen from the core stage, and another surrounding the 4-inch bleed line used to redirect some of the propellant during tanking operations,” per NASA.

The good news is that the leaks are the main things to address, and, of course test prior to launch: NASA plans on testing the new seals on September 17. All of this will take place at the Artemis 1's launch pad, and the rest of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft — which will eventually house astronauts who will land on the moon — are in good condition, otherwise.

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But the U.S. Space Force says NASA has to test the SLS’s flight termination system periodically, and its previous certification expires soon. The FTS is basically NASA’s last resort in case of emergency, which destroys the rocket if it veers off-course during launch. The failsafe has to be tested and (re)certified at the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building every 25 days.

If the Artemis 1 has to be rolled back to the VAB for certification, the launch would be delayed into October. NASA is now asking the Space Force’s Eastern Range — which includes the Kennedy Space Center — for a waiver to extend the number of days allowed in between FTS certification up from 25.

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The Eastern Range already granted NASA a waiver to extend the allowable days from 20 to 25, so it’s unclear whether NASA will get the waiver for the Artemis 1 to launch by the end of this month. If it does, the Artemis 1 will try to launch again on September 23 at 6:47 a.m. EDT, or September 27 at 11:37 a.m. EDT.

Image for article titled NASA Will Try to Send the Artemis 1 to the Moon Again on September 23
Photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration