Nasa to repair leaky Artemis-1 moon rocket on launchpad, return to assembly building later

Days after it scrubbed the second attempt to launch the Artemis-1 mission to the Moon, Nasa will fix the leaks on the rocket at the launch pad itself. The launch vehicle with the Orion spacecraft will then be hauled back into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

The Artemis engineers will replace the seal on an interface, called the quick disconnect, between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line on the mobile launcher and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket during the repairs. It was a quick disconnect which had developed a hydrogen leak, following which the launch attempt was scrubbed.

“Performing the work at the pad requires technicians to set up an enclosure around the work area to protect the hardware from the weather and other environmental conditions, but enables engineers to test the repair under cryogenic, or supercold, conditions,” Nasa said in a blog update.

Also Read | Artemis-1 suffers fuel leak, second launch attempt scrubbed

On Saturday, engineers detected hydrogen fuel leaking from the engine section at the bottom of the rocket, forcing the tanking operation to be stopped as troubleshooting began. It was believed to be a gap around a seal in the supply line as the countdown clock remained active.

A view of Nasa’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft for Artemis I on the pad at Launch Complex 39B. (Photo: Nasa)

ROCKET TO BE HAULED INTO VAB

The Space Launch System (SLS) with the Orion spacecraft will have to be rolled back into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to perform additional work that does not require the use of the cryogenic facilities available only at the pad.

“Performing the work at the pad also allows teams to gather as much data as possible to understand the cause of the issue,” Nasa said, adding that the rocket will have to be moved back into VAB to meet the current requirement by the Eastern Range for the certification on the flight termination system.

Also Read | Hit by leaks, Artemis-1 mission to Moon unlikely to launch anytime soon

Meanwhile, engineers will also check plate coverings on other umbilical interfaces to ensure there are no leaks present at those locations. With seven main umbilical lines, each line may have multiple connection points.

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.

With a two-week launch blackout period, the rocket is now grounded until late September or October. Nasa will work around a high-priority SpaceX astronaut flight to the International Space Station scheduled for early October.

Also Read | European orbiter survives major blow from Sun near Venus

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