September 3rd, 2022
After hours of troubleshooting a hydrogen leak, NASA called off its second attempt to get the Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket off the ground.
At about 11:17 a.m. EDT (15:17 UTC) Sept. 3, 2022, the Artemis 1 launch team officially scrubbed the launch, which was to occur during a two-hour window opening at 2:17 p.m. EDT (18:17 UTC).
The leak was detected in a quick disconnect cavity at the base of the rocket’s core stage. This prompted teams to stop filling hydrogen and allow the propellant line to warm up before resuming again in hopes that it would reseat the seal between ground support equipment and the vehicle.
Unfortunately, once teams manually began flowing hydrogen back into the core stage, the leak recurred. Hydrogen was stopped for a second time to warm up the lines and restart flow, but it didn’t work.
During the first launch attempt on Aug. 29, another hydrogen leak occurred, but it was on a different seal, according to NASA. What ultimately caused the scrub on the 29th was an anomalous sensor reading on engine No. 3 on the core stage.
It’s unclear what the next steps will be, but NASA has a few options. Teams can attempt to launch during a 90-minute window at 5:12 p.m. EDT (21:12 UTC) Sept. 5. There is another 24-minute window that opens at 6:57 p.m. EDT (22:57 UTC) Sept. 6.
The third option, depending on the outcome of today’s mission management briefing at 4 p.m. EDT (20:00 UTC), would be to roll the rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building.
NASA will have to roll back, regardless, after Sept. 6, in order to recertify the flight termination system, which only has a warranty of a few weeks from installation inside the VAB. That would prompt a delay of at least several weeks, likely into mid-October.
When it does launch, the 322-foot (98-meter) tall SLS rocket will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a multi-week journey to the Moon and back, with the crew module splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.
A successful Artemis 1 will pave the way for a crewed Artemis 2 mission in 2024, which will include three American astronauts and one Canadian astronaut.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity.