How will NASA get back to the moon? test, test, test – science

Maxar Technologies via NYT - 18/06/22

What in your fourth attempt on Monday NASA The completion was originally a test countdown for the rocket that would take astronauts to the Moon.

But agency technicians said it was too early to know whether the test rocket would be good enough for the Space Launch System to proceed without astronauts to launch the Orion capsule on a test flight around the Moon.

Even if the countdown rehearsal is completely gone, this mission, Artemis 1, will likely begin no earlier than the end of August. This flight will be the departure point for the United States astronaut back on the lunar surface More than half a century after the Apollo 17 mission.

Atop the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rocket’s propellant tanks were filled with 890,000 liters of liquid oxygen and 2,400,000 liters of liquid hydrogen for the first time. The problems raised during the last three attempts in April have been resolved.

“I think it was a very successful day, hitting most of the goals once again,” release director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said during a press conference on Tuesday.

But a new problem emerged: hydrogen leaking from the fuel connector. By heating and cooling the connector, engineers hoped that the seal would go far enough to prevent leakage. But it did not work.

During an actual launch, this problem would have been the end of the countdown for the 98 m tall rocket.

But Monday’s exercise was what NASA called the wet test — wet due to the actual flow of fuel in the tanks — designed to solve the mess and process without the fuss of igniting engines and rockets rising into space.

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With the countdown halting at T-10 minutes, engineers came up with a plan where a valve would be closed to stop the leak and to allow the countdown to proceed to test other rocket components and launch procedures. errors will be suppressed.

Blackwell-Thompson approved the plans and the countdown continued until, as expected, it ended with 29 seconds remaining. Liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen were then ejected from the rocket.

On Tuesday, NASA technicians said they still have to analyze the data to see what they need to do before the rocket is ready to launch. The Space Launch System and Orion, the capsule where astronauts will live, are essential components for Artemis, NASA’s program that should send astronauts back to the Moon.

Still, NASA technicians were pleased with the progress.

Thomas Whitmire, deputy associate administrator for Common Exploration Systems Development at NASA, said filling the tanks and counting to near zero were important milestones.

“We’re looking at the puzzle to see what pieces we still haven’t put together,” Whitmeyer said. “But we’ve put a lot of pieces together and we have a pretty good idea of ​​where the puzzle is at this point.”

In April, three wet test attempts ended early due to various problems. The rocket was moved to a spacious garage, called the Vehicle Assembly Building, where technicians could more easily diagnose problems and make repairs. The gap also gave time to an outside supplier to upgrade facilities used to purify hazardous gases — which supply nitrogen gas to the Kennedy Space Center. During the two test attempts, interruptions in nitrogen supply delayed the countdown.

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NASA may decide to conduct another wet test run, or decide that it has enough data and moves the rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for one final time in preparation for the final launch, which will involve dismantling the rocket. It involves setting up a self-destruct mechanism. Something goes wrong during flight.

For Artemis 1, the rocket will launch and send the Orion capsule on a long journey around the Moon. The capsule will then circle back to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and dive into the ocean.

The second Artemis flight, scheduled for 2024, will have astronauts aboard a similar trip, without landing on the Moon. Artemis 3 will be the first lunar landing by astronauts since 1972. NASA has proposed a date of 2025 for such manned travel, but it could be delayed further. , TRANSLATION BY RENATO PRELORENTZOU

About the author: Raven Weber

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