Categories
GeekWire

NASA scrubs its second try to launch moon rocket

NASA called off today’s attempt to launch its Space Launch System rocket due to a hydrogen leak encountered during the process of fueling up the core stage.

The next opportunity for liftoff could come on Sept. 5 or 6, but NASA hasn’t yet decided the timing for the third launch attempt.

NASA’s uncrewed test mission, known as Artemis 1, is meant to blaze a trail for sending astronauts to the moon.

“We’ll go when it’s ready,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “We don’t go until then, and especially now, on a test flight, because we’re going to stress this and test it … and make sure it’s right before we put four humans up on the top of it. So, this is part of the space business.”

Today’s scrub at Kennedy Space Center in Florida came five days after an initial postponement, which was attributed to concerns about the procedure for cooling down the SLS’s rocket engines prior to launch.

Categories
GeekWire

NASA schedules second attempt to launch moon rocket

One day after the first launch of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket had to be scrubbed due to an engine cool-down issue, mission managers announced that they’d try again on Sept. 3. In the meantime, engineers will work out the details of a go/no-go plan, just in case they face issues similar to those that forced this week’s scrub.

Sept. 3’s two-hour launch opportunity opens at 2:17 p.m. ET (11:17 a.m. PT) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If all systems are go, liftoff would mark the beginning of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, an uncrewed test flight aimed at setting the stage for sending astronauts to the lunar surface in the mid-2020s.

Categories
GeekWire

Engine problem forces a delay for moon rocket’s launch

plumbing issue on a rocket engine has forced a postponement in the first launch of NASA’s most powerful rocket on a history-making round-the-moon flight.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket went far into the fueling process for today’s start of the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission, which is meant to test all the systems that will come into play during crewed missions to the moon.

During the countdown, engineers detected a problem with one of the core stage’s four rocket engines. The rocket is designed to “bleed off” some of its supercooled propellant to condition its engines — basically, to maintain the engines at the proper temperature for startup. But the hydrogen bleed procedure wasn’t working properly for engine No. 3.

Engineers tried various techniques to free up the plumbing snag, and NASA called an unplanned hold at T-minus-40 minutes to give them more time to come up with a fix. But in the end, mission managers decided to scrub the launch for today.

Categories
GeekWire

SLS moon launch is about much more than a big bang

More than 100,000 people are expected to overwhelm Florida’s Space Coast on Aug. 29 to watch NASA’s most powerful rocket lift off on a history-making Artemis 1 mission to the moon and beyond — but if you can’t make it in person, watching the launch online may well be the next best thing.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is scheduled to blast off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B at 8:33 a.m. ET (5:33 a.m. PT), at the start of a two-hour launch window. Forecasters say there’s an 80% chance of acceptable weather at the beginning of the window, declining to 60% by the end.

No significant problems have turned up during the countdown, senior test director Jeff Spalding said today. “We are prepared for anything,” he told reporters. But if weather or technical issues force a postponement, Sept. 2 and 5 are the backup dates for launch.

Streaming video coverage is set to begin at 9 p.m. PT tonight on NASA TV with commentary on the SLS fueling operation. The coverage goes into full swing at 3:30 a.m. PT. (Check out the full schedule.)

The Artemis 1 mission calls for the first-ever SLS launch to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a 42-day test flight that features a wide-ranging lunar orbit, coming as close as 62 miles to the moon and ranging as far as 40,000 miles beyond the moon. That will set a distance record for any spacecraft designed to carry astronauts.

At the end of the mission, the Orion capsule will come screaming back to Earth at 25,000 mph, heading for a Pacific Ocean splashdown. One of Artemis 1’s prime objectives is to test the performance of Orion’s heat shield at atmospheric re-entry temperatures ranging as high as 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

NASA and its commercial partners have been working toward this flight for more than a decade. Artemis 1 represents the first real-world test of the SLS-Orion system, setting the stage for Artemis 2’s crewed round-the-moon flight in the 2024 time frame and Artemis 3’s crewed moon landing in 2025 or 2026.

Categories
GeekWire

Aerojet is working years ahead on NASA’s moon missions

REDMOND, Wash. — When NASA’s Space Launch System rocket sends an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond the moon and back for the Artemis 1 mission, the trip will put rocket components built in Redmond to their sternest test.

But at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Redmond facility, where hardware for Artemis 1 was built years ago, engineers are already working years ahead. “We have delivered Artemis 1 and 2, and we’re just finishing up Artemis 3 right now so that acceptance testing will finish this summer,” said Erica Raine, the Aerojet program manager who’s overseeing work on the Orion capsule in Redmond.

And she’s just talking about the reaction control thrusters for Artemis 3’s Orion crew module — the vehicle that’s destined to transport astronauts to the moon by as early as 2025. Some of the components currently being assembled in Redmond are destined to become part of the Artemis 5 moon mission, set for 2028.

Aerojet’s production schedule goes to show how long it takes to put together the millions of pieces for the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule that are due for launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 29.

Categories
GeekWire

NASA lays out its plan for moon rocket’s first launch

If all goes according to plan, NASA could launch its heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket on its first flight around the moon by as early as Aug. 29.

That’s a big “if,” however: Workers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida still have to finish fixing and testing the rocket’s systems, including components that didn’t get fully checked out during last month’s launch rehearsal.

Cliff Lanham, senior vehicle operations manager for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program, said it’ll be tricky to finish up the final test while observing all the launch constraints currently in place. “We do have some challenges right now as we complete that test and all our final closeout work, particularly in the core stage intertank, to get to a point where we’re ready to roll out,” he said today.

Today’s announcement came on an auspicious day: the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The schedule calls for the 322-foot-tall, 3.5 million-pound rocket to roll out from the space center’s Vehicle Assembly Building on Aug. 18. That would set the stage for potential launch attempts on Aug. 29, Sept. 2 and Sept. 5. Liftoff would mark the start of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, an uncrewed test flight that’s meant to blaze a trail for astronauts to land on the lunar surface by as early as 2025.

Categories
Cosmic Space

The stage is set for NASA moon rocket’s rehearsal

For the first time in nearly 50 years, a NASA rocket capable of sending humans to the moon is sitting on its launch pad.

The overnight rollout of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, topped by an Orion capsule, evoked memories of the Saturn V rocket launches that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon from Kennedy Space Center in Florida between 1968 and 1972.

The SLS is being prepared for a monthlong test mission known as Artemis 1, which will send the Orion on an uncrewed flight around the moon and back. That flight, currently set for the May-June time frame, is due to be followed by a crewed round-the-moon mission in 2024, and then a mission to send astronauts to lunar surface in 2025.

The precise timing of all these missions depends on the outcome of on-the-ground tests of the multibillion-dollar rocket. Those tests are due to take place over the next couple of weeks and come to a climax next month with a dress rehearsal for launch.

The stage for the rehearsal was set when the 322-foot-tall, 3.5 million-pound rocket rolled out of Kennedy Space Center’s giant Vehicle Assembly Building on a crawler-transporter that was retooled from the space shuttle era. After a trek that took nearly 11 hours, the rocket was fixed in place at around 4:15 a.m. ET (1:15 a.m. PT) today at Launch Complex 39B, which was first used for Apollo 10’s launch in 1969.

Categories
Universe Today

NASA’s first Artemis moon landing slips to 2025

NASA has pushed back the timetable for landing astronauts on the moon for the first time in more than a half-century from 2024 to no earlier than 2025.

Blue Origin’s unsuccessful legal challenge to a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract awarded to SpaceX was one of the factors behind the delay in the Artemis moon program, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a Nov. 9 teleconference.

Nelson also pointed to Congress’ previous decisions not to fund the lander program as fully as NASA wanted, plus delays forced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that “the Trump administration target of a 2024 human landing was not grounded in technical feasibility.”

“After having taken a good look under the hood these past six months, it’s clear to me that the agency will need to make serious changes for the long-term success of the program,” he told reporters.

Categories
GeekWire

Aerojet signs up to build hardware for moon trips

Aerojet - Lockheed Martin signing
Lockheed Martin’s Mike Hawes and Scott Jones sign copies of a contract for Orion rocket hardware, after Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Ken Young and Cheryl Rehm take their turn. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

REDMOND, Wash. — Representatives of Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed Martin put their signatures on a contract for up to $170 million worth of rocket hardware that’ll be installed on Orion spacecraft heading to the moon — with dozens of employees who’ll actually build that hardware watching the proceedings.

“These are the things you’re going to be talking to your grandchildren about,” Cheryl Rehm, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s senior director of Redmond programs, told company employees here at today’s signing ceremony.

The ceremony highlighted Redmond’s role in NASA’s Artemis moon landings.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Orion spacecraft gets big-budget vote of support

Orion capsule
The Orion crew capsule meant for NASA’s uncrewed Artemis 1 mission around the moon and back is being prepared for its flight. (NASA Photo / Radislav Sinyak)

NASA says it’s ordering three more Orion spacecraft for missions to the moon, at a cost of $2.7 billion — and plans to order as many as nine more by 2030.

Today’s announcement signals NASA’s long-term commitment to its Artemis program for lunar exploration and settlement, with a crewed lunar landing planned for as early as 2024.

The Orion spacecraft for that mission, known as Artemis 3, is included in the newly announced order, along with the spacecraft for Artemis 4 and 5.

Get the full story on GeekWire.