The critical test, known as the wet dress rehearsal, simulates each launch step without the rocket leaving the launch site. This process includes loading the propellant, passing a full launch simulation countdown, resetting the countdown clock, and draining the rocket tanks.
After three attempts at a wet dress rehearsal in April, the rocket stack was flown back to the Vehicle Assembly Building on April 26 to deal with problems encountered during the test run.
So far, the team is working to replace a faulty control valve on the upper stage of the rocket that caused the helium leak and to repair the hydrogen leak in the tail tissue. Meanwhile, Air Liquide, which supplies nitrogen gas to the launch pad, is upgrading its pipeline configuration to better support the Artemis I test and launch.
During the inspection of the control valve, the team found a small piece of rubber that prevented it from being properly sealed, said Jim Free, co-managing director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission, during a press conference Thursday.
No problems were found with the valve and engineers are investigating the source of the rubber, as it was not originally part of the valve, Free said. The team has also reduced the possible causes for hydrogen leakage.
Once the rocket stack returns to the launch site in late May, it will take between 12 and 14 days for the rocket to pass through another wet dress rehearsal, which could take place in early to mid-June, Free said.
“We’ve done a lot of work to prepare the rocket to launch back to the launch site,” said Cliff Lanham, senior operations director for NASA’s Groundwater Exploration Program at the Kennedy Space Center. “Stopping at VAB is a pit stop to return, we do what we have to do and return to the dashboard as soon as possible. Therefore, we are working hard to achieve this goal. “
The Artemis team is now examining the launch windows to send Artemis I on its journey to the moon in late summer: between July 26 and August 9, August 23 to August 29, and September 2 to September 6.
“We also want to be realistic and advance with you that it may take more than one effort to get the processes where we need them for a smoother start count that gives us the best opportunity to do the startup windows,” Free said.
Once the Artemis rocket stack completes the liquid general rehearsal, it will roll back into the building to wait for launch day.
There is a long history behind the arduous process of testing new systems before launching a rocket, and what the Artemis team is experiencing is similar to what the Apollo-era and shuttle teams experienced, including multiple test attempts and delays before launch. .
The results of the wet dress rehearsal will determine when the unpaid Artemis A will be launched on a mission that transcends the moon and returns to Earth. This mission will launch NASA’s Artemis program, which is expected to bring humans back to the Moon and land the first woman and the first colored person on the lunar surface by 2025.