NASA’s lunar megarocket faces another test delay before the vehicle’s expected first flight for the Artemis Program.
For months, NASA personnel have been conducting a series of tests called a “green race” on the first core stage of the agency’s new massive rocket, the Space launch system (SLS). The tests are happening in the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi before being sent to Florida for the unmanned launch of Artemis 1 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center near Orlando.
in a short update on monday (Feb 22), NASA said it is “reviewing the performance of a valve in the center stage” of the SLS, forcing the agency to delay the second “hot fire” test. A new date for the hot fire has not yet been announced.
Video: How NASA’s Megarrocket SLS Engine Test Works
The agency confirmed that the valve in question functioned properly during the first hot fire test, held on January 16. That procedure finished after only 67 seconds, rather than the expected eight minutes, prompting the agency to schedule the next second test to collect all the data needed to confirm that the rocket is working as planned.
That test was scheduled for February 25. But during verification preparations last weekend, engineers discovered that one of the SLS’s eight valves was “not working properly,” according to NASA, causing the delay. The green run process has been delayed since the end of 2020, when the series’ seventh test, a “wet dress” rehearsal, also required two takes.
NASA was versus a tight deadline send the SLS rocket to Kennedy for a planned unmanned flight around the moon before the end of the year, a milestone in the calendar for landing humans on the moon for Artemis 3 in 2024.
However, in recent weeks there have been some signs that the 2024 deadline is no longer a firm target. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden’s administration committed to continuing the work to get humans to the moon But the discussion contained no language about the 2024 target, set by the administration of President Donald Trump.
Also, NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk, newly appointed last month when the administration changed, recently told Ars Technica that felt the deadline was no longer “realistic, “given that NASA has not received your full application for Artemis assignments in previous budgets – including human landing system (HLS). NASA too paused the selection process for HLS earlier this month.
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