NASA’s megarocket is cancelling its planned test flight to the moon, the agency said on Monday.
Engine issues prevented NASA’s unmanned Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft from launching on their eagerly anticipated test flight to the moon.
As the rocket was being loaded with propellant, engineers discovered a problem with one of the fuel lines. Halfway through the launch countdown, a liquid hydrogen line that cools the rocket’s core-stage engines broke down. After several failed attempts at troubleshooting, the test flight was ultimately aborted.
There has not yet been a new launch date declared. Backup launch dates for NASA are September 2 and 5, but it’s not clear if engineers will be able to identify the issue and fix it in time to meet those deadlines.
After the flight was aborted, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on NASA TV, “We don’t launch until it’s right.
Engineers are gathering data from the vehicle on the launch pad, the agency said, adding that the rocket and spacecraft are currently “in a stable, safe condition.”
The 322-foot-tall Space Launch System, a modern booster that NASA describes as the “most powerful rocket in the world,” was scheduled to launch for the first time on Monday. Before the organisation sends astronauts back to the lunar surface, the test flight, known as Artemis I, is intended to evaluate the massive SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.
NASA has been working for more than ten years to create a new megarocket that is larger and more capable than the iconic Saturn V rockets used during the agency’s Apollo moon programme, which ended in the 1970s. The Artemis I project has been delayed as a result. The project has received criticism over the years for running billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.