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NASA decides to roll its moon rocket back to safety

With Hurricane Ian bearing down on the Florida coast, NASA has decided to move its multibillion-dollar Space Launch System moon rocket to safety.

For days, NASA and weather forecasters had been watching the storm take shape in the Caribbean Sea, and they made advance preparations for a rollback from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Over the weekend, mission managers decided not to proceed with a third attempt on Sept. 27 to launch the 322-foot-tall, 5.7 million-pound rocket on NASA’s Artemis 1 round-the-moon mission. And today they decided to go ahead with the rollback.

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GeekWire

NASA ‘encouraged’ by tanking test for moon rocket

NASA says it achieved all its objectives during today’s launch-pad rehearsal for fueling up its giant Space Launch System rocket for an uncrewed round-the-moon mission known as Artemis 1 — but will have to review the data, check the weather and get final approvals before going ahead with plans for a Sept. 27 liftoff.

The test at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida was meant to verify that hydrogen fuel leaks encountered during the past month’s launch attempts were fixed. A hydrogen leak did crop up today during the process of filling the SLS rocket’s tanks with super-cooled propellants. “Engineers were able to troubleshoot the issue and proceed with the planned activities,” NASA said afterward.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Universe Today

No more rehearsals for NASA’s SLS moon rocket

NASA says it’s finished with having to do full-scale dress rehearsals for the first liftoff of its moon-bound Space Launch System rocket. But it’s not finished with having to make fixes.

“At this point we’ve determined that we’ve successfully completed the evaluations and the work that we intended to complete for the dress rehearsal,” Thomas Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems development, told reporters today.

NASA’s assessment came after a dress rehearsal that reached its climax on June 20 with the loading of the 322-foot-tall rocket’s supercooled propellant tanks. The rehearsal, which followed some less-than-fully-successful trial runs in April, marked a milestone for launch preparations because it was the first time that the team at Kennedy Space Center in Florida had fully loaded all of the tanks and proceeded into the terminal launch countdown.

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Cosmic Space

Moon rocket returns to launch pad for rehearsal rerun

NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket is back at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B for another dress rehearsal aimed at clearing the way for a round-the-moon mission.

This time, NASA hopes the full-up rehearsal will include a fill-up.

The SLS rocket had its first rollout to the pad in mid-March, and NASA went through several rounds of pre-launch tests in April. But the team wasn’t able to fill the rocket’s tanks with super-chilled hydrogen and oxygen propellants due to a series of problems.

NASA had to transport the 322-foot-tall, 3.5 million-pound rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building and fix the glitches. Early today, the rocket made the 4-mile, eight-hour journey back to the pad to begin preparations for another “wet dress rehearsal,” including the tank-filling operation.

If all goes according to plan, NASA will go all the way through the countdown to the moment of ignition in two weeks. And if the reviews of the rehearsal are sufficiently glowing, the first-ever SLS launch would send NASA’s Orion spaceship on an uncrewed mission around the moon and back in August.

That mission, known as Artemis 1, could be considered a robotic rehearsal for a crewed Artemis 2 mission around the moon. The Artemis 2 launch is scheduled for no earlier than 2024. NASA’s plan calls for the mission after that, Artemis 3, to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since Apollo 17 — 50 years ago.