FLYING Magazine

An engine issue forced NASA to scrub Monday’s highly-anticipated launch of Artemis I, the first spacecraft designed to carry humans to the moon in 50 years. The next available window for the historic launch is Friday. NASA said it was too soon to know if a Friday launch was possible. 

The announcement was unwelcome news for an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 people who have traveled to the area around Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to watch the first liftoff of NASA’s most powerful rocket—the Space Launch System (SLS)—on a 42-day uncrewed mission to circle the moon and return to Earth. 

For much of the morning, NASA engineers have been troubleshooting the problem—a conditioning issue with the third engine on the four engine SLS core stage. While Artemis I–which includes the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft–sits on Launch Pad 39B, engineers have been conditioning the engines by bleeding fuel into them to bring the engines to the proper temperature prior to launch. Engine No. 3 is not properly responding to that conditioning process, NASA said. 

“Engineers are looking at options to gather as much data as possible. The Artemis I rocket and spacecraft are in a stable, safe condition,” said a post on NASA’s Artemis blog. 

Liftoff had been scheduled for 8:33 a.m. ET, the beginning of a two hour launch window, NASA said. 

NASA blamed Monday’s scrubbed liftoff on an issue with the Space Launch System’s No. 3 RS-25 engine. [Courtesy: NASA]

Mission planners have been working toward this day for years, in anticipation of sending the new rocket and spacecraft on a 1.3 million mile uncrewed flight test that is expected to open the door to a new era in space exploration. 

The SLS core engine and its two solid rocket boosters are designed to separate from Artemis I shortly after liftoff. Once Orion enters Earth orbit, mission controllers will activate an engine burn for trans-lunar injection, sending the spacecraft on a trajectory toward the moon. 

Plans call for Orion to enter a unique lunar orbit that will send it thousands of miles beyond the moon—farther from Earth than any other human-crewed spacecraft—280,000 miles. This highly stable distant retrograde orbit (DRO) requires less fuel and will allow NASA to more effectively evaluate the spacecraft’s capabilities for missions in deep space. Finally, the mission calls for controllers to bring Orion back to Earth on October 10, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, off San Diego. 

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