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Artemis I wet dress rehearsal met with challenges

The team discovered a hydrogen leak at a quick disconnect during Monday's rehearsal and was assessing the problem.
Credit: AP
NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher at Launch Complex 39B, Thursday, April 6, 2022 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. — During a fourth attempt to perform a practice launch day for NASA's uncrewed moon rocket Artemis I, the mission management team ran into a few issues while preparing the walk-through, including a nearby grass fire during operations.

The previous three attempts to perform a wet dress rehearsal in April were canceled. The setbacks have pushed the official launch date back, which was originally scheduled for a date in June. 

The wet dress rehearsal is the final test before space launch. 

"The rehearsal will run the Artemis I launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock and also drain the tanks to give them an opportunity to practice the timelines and procedures they will use for launch," NASA says. 

The mission management team met at around 6 a.m. to assess operations and determine whether to proceed with tanking operations, NASA says. 

What does all of this mean? 

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"Tanking begins with chilling down the liquid oxygen lines for the core stage," according to NASA. "In sequential fashion, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen will flow into the rocket’s core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage tanks and be topped off and replenished as some of cryogenic propellant boils off. The team also will conduct leak checks to ensure propellant loading is proceeding as expected."

Hiccups began early at around 7:30 a.m. and NASA said in a tweet that the wet dress rehearsal was on hold while the team worked through problems with the backup supply of gaseous nitrogen.

NASA discovered some key issues while undergoing Monday's wet dress rehearsal: a hydrogen leak at the core stage quick disconnect and a small grass fire at launch pad 39B.

However, the wet dress rehearsal for Artemis I wasn't all bad as they were able to accomplish the following:

  • Liquid oxygen transfer line chilled down
  • Helium pressurized to flight level
  • Main propulsion chill down initiated  

If Artemis I is successful upon actual launch day, NASA will be one step closer to bringing humans back to the moon since the Apollo program. 

"Artemis I will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II," NASA says.

But before that can happen, NASA will have to review data from the wet dress rehearsal before setting a specific target launch date for the Artemis I launch.

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