Update: This summary has been updated throughout.
Fuel leaks have forced NASA to scrub Monday's launch of its new moon rocket on a no-crew test flight, per the AP
. The next launch attempt will not take place until Friday at the earliest. The 322-foot Space Launch System rocket was set to lift off Monday morning with three test dummies aboard on its first flight, a mission to propel a capsule into orbit around the moon. The shakedown flight, when it happens, will be a big step forward in America’s quest to put astronauts back on the moon for the first time since the end of the Apollo program 50 years ago. NASA hopes to send four astronauts around the moon in 2024 and land humans there as early as 2025.
Earlier Monday, 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. The 322-foot spaceship is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA, out-muscling even the Saturn V that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon.
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