NASA loaded fuel into its moon rocket on Wednesday during a leak test ahead of a launch attempt as early as next week.
The day’s demonstration will determine whether the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket ready for his first test flight, a lunar orbit mission with dummies instead of astronauts.
Managers want to verify the repair of all the hydrogen leaks that marred the first two launch attempts, as well as the previous countdown tests. So much hydrogen leaked out during the countdown earlier this month that it more than doubled NASA’s limit.
NASA replaced two seals after the latest delay. One had a tiny indentation.
“The team is very excited to complete this test. Everyone has been working hard for the past few weeks,” said NASA engineer Wes Mosdale of Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Division.
Wednesday’s goal: to pump nearly 1 million gallons (4 million liters) into the rocket with minimal or no leakage. This would set NASA on course for the possible attempt to launch Tuesday, provided that the US space force will renew the certification of the batteries on board, which are part of the flight safety system.
In addition to replacing the seals, NASA changed the refueling process, loosening the loading of super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen. Therefore, according to officials, the plumbing should be subjected to less stress and less likely to leak.
After launch, the crew capsule on top of the rocket will be the first in orbit month after 50 years. The $4.1 billion mission is expected to last more than five weeks and end with a crash in the Pacific Ocean. Astronauts will climb aboard for a second test flight, orbiting the moon in 2024. A third mission, planned for 2025, will actually land a pair of astronauts on the moon.
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo cosmonauts to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The engines and boosters are carryovers from the now-retired space shuttles. As now, NASA struggled with elusive hydrogen leaks during the shuttle era, especially in the early 1990s.
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