Update: Let's try again. After two canceled launch dates for NASA's Artemis I moon rocket, Tuesday is set for the next attempt, reports Space.com. The previous two tries, on Aug. 29 and Sept. 3, were nixed due to technical worries, including a fuel leak. That leak has since been remedied, and all systems are go for the launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, though there is one thing that could delay the plan once again: Tropical Storm Ian, which is gathering strength in the Caribbean and is on track to slam into Cuba and the Sunshine State early next week. Artemis' team will make a final decision on Saturday regarding whether to proceed with the launch, reports CNN. Our original story from Sept. 3 follows:
NASA's new moon rocket sprang another dangerous fuel leak Saturday, forcing launch controllers to call off their second attempt to send a crew capsule into lunar orbit with test dummies. The first attempt earlier in the week was also marred by escaping hydrogen, but those leaks were elsewhere on the 322-foot rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA, per the AP. Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the director of the launch, and her team tried to plug Saturday's leak the way they did the last time: stopping and restarting the flow of super-cold liquid hydrogen in hopes of removing the gap around a seal in the supply line. They tried that twice, in fact, and also flushed helium through the line. But the leak persisted.
Blackwell-Thompson finally halted the countdown after three to four hours of futile effort. On Monday, hydrogen fuel escaped from elsewhere in the rocket. Before igniting, the main engines need to be as frigid as the liquid hydrogen fuel flowing into them at minus-420 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, the resulting damage could lead to an abrupt engine shutdown and aborted flight. Mission managers accepted the additional risk posed by the engine issue, as well as a separate problem: cracks in the rocket's insulating foam. But they acknowledged other problems—like fuel leaks—could prompt yet another delay.
NASA wants to send the crew capsule atop the rocket around the moon, pushing it to the limit before astronauts get on the next flight. If the five-week demo with test dummies succeeds, astronauts could fly around the moon in 2024 and land on it in 2025. The $4.1 billion test flight is the first step in NASA's Artemis program of renewed lunar exploration, named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology. Twelve astronauts walked on the moon during NASA's Apollo program, the last time in 1972. Artemis—years behind schedule and billions over budget—aims to establish a sustained human presence on the moon, with crews eventually spending weeks at a time there. It's considered a training ground for Mars.
(Read more Artemis missions