NASA will make a second lunar rocket launch attempt on Saturday

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WASHINGTON, Aug 30 (Reuters) – NASA is aiming to make a second launch attempt of its giant next-generation moon rocket on Saturday, September 3, five days after a pair of technical glitches thwarted a first attempt to lift off the spatialship. ground for the first time, agency officials said Tuesday.

But prospects for success on Saturday appeared clouded by weather reports predicting just a 40% chance of favorable conditions that day, while the US space agency acknowledged that some outstanding technical issues still needed to be resolved.

At a press conference a day after Monday’s first countdown to flight cleanup ended, NASA officials said Monday’s experience was helpful in resolving some issues and additional difficulties. could be resolved in the middle of a second launch attempt.

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In this way, the launch exercise essentially served as a real-time dress rehearsal that would hopefully culminate in an actual, successful liftoff.

For now, NASA officials said, plans are to keep the 32-story Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion astronaut capsule on its launch pad to avoid having to roll the rocket. enormous spacecraft in its assembly building for a more extensive series of tests and repairs.

If all goes as planned, the SLS will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday afternoon during a two-hour launch window that opens at 2:17 p.m., sending the Orion on a six-week uncrewed test flight around the moon and back.

The long-awaited trip would launch NASA’s Moon-to-Mars Artemis program, the successor to the Apollo lunar project of the 1960s and 1970s, before American human spaceflight efforts moved into low Earth orbit with shuttles spacecraft and the International Space Station. .

NASA’s first Artemis I launch attempt on Monday ended after data showed one of the rocket’s main stage engines failed to reach the proper pre-launch temperature required. for ignition, forcing the countdown to stop and a postponement.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, mission leaders said they believed a faulty sensor in the rocket’s engine section was the culprit for the engine cooling problem.

To remedy Saturday’s attempt, mission officials plan to begin this engine cooling process about 30 minutes earlier in the launch countdown, NASA Artemis Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said. . But a full explanation of the faulty sensor requires further analysis of the data by engineers.

“The way the sensor behaves doesn’t match the physics of the situation,” said John Honeycutt, NASA’s SLS program manager.

The sensor was last checked and calibrated months ago at the rocket factory, Honeycutt said. Replacing the sensor would require returning the rocket to its assembly building, a process that could delay the mission for months.

The SLS-Orion’s maiden voyage, a mission dubbed Artemis I, aims to put the 5.75 million pound vehicle through its paces in a rigorous demonstration flight pushing its design limits, before NASA deems it sufficiently reliable for transporting astronauts.

Named after the goddess who was Apollo’s twin sister in ancient Greek mythology, Artemis is looking to get astronauts back to the moon’s surface as early as 2025, although many experts believe that deadline will likely slip by a few years. .

The last humans to walk on the moon were the two-man Apollo 17 descent team in 1972, following in the footsteps of 10 other astronauts on five previous missions beginning with Apollo 11 in 1969.

Artemis is also appealing for commercial and international help to eventually establish a long-term lunar base as a stepping stone to even more ambitious human journeys to Mars, a goal that NASA officials say would likely take at least until the end of the day. late 2030s.

But NASA has many steps to take along the way, starting with sending the SLS-Orion vehicle into space.

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Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Josie Kao and Stephen Coates

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