After a first failed attempt on Monday due to a technical problem, NASA, the American space agency, announced on Tuesday August 30 that it would attempt to launch its new mega-rocket on Saturday.
“We have agreed to change our take-off date to Saturday, September 3”declared at a press conference Mike Sarafin, in charge of NASA’s Artemis-1 mission, which should mark the beginning of the American program to return to the Moon.
The Space Launch System (SLS) – the most powerful rocket in the world – takes off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The shooting window begins at 2:17 p.m. (8:17 p.m. in Paris) and lasts two hours. A meteorological official warned that the probability of unfavorable conditions, such as precipitation or thunderstorms, was high at the moment, quantifying it at around 60%. However, he declared ” optimistic “, concerning a possibility of take-off, passing between the drops.
A cooling problem on one of the motors
The launch of the rocket was canceled on Monday at the last moment due to a cooling problem in one of the four main engines, under the main stage. These RS-25 engines must be cooled so that they do not shock from the ultracold fuel when ignited. But one of them could not reach the desired temperature. This is reached, letting a small part of the cryogenic fuel escape on the engines.
NASA teams suspect a problem with a possibly faulty sensor, said SLS program manager John Honeycutt. “The way the sensor behaves is not consistent with the physics of the situation”he explained, specifying that such a concern was not “really unusual”.
The teams therefore plan to collect enough data elsewhere, using other instruments, to ensure that the engine is properly cooled. There are also plans to start engine cooling earlier in the countdown.
Thousands of people made the trip on Monday to attend the show, including the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. A leak problem when filling the fuel tanks had also been observed, and even if it had been overcome, NASA teams will also work to fix it by Saturday.
Establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon
The Artemis-1 mission is to launch the unmanned Orion capsule into orbit around the Moon, to verify the vehicle is safe for future astronauts – including the first woman and first person of color to walk on the lunar surface .
After forty-two days in space, the main goal is to test the capsule’s heat shield as it returns to Earth’s atmosphere at nearly 40,000 km/h and a temperature half as hot as the surface. of the Sun.
Only mannequins will take place on board, equipped with sensors recording vibrations and radiation levels. The capsule will venture up to 64,000 km behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft so far.
After this first mission, Artemis-2 will carry astronauts to the Moon in 2024, without landing there. An honor reserved for the crew of Artemis-3, in 2025 at the earliest. The goal is to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon, in order to learn how to live in deep space and to test all the technologies necessary for a round trip to Mars.