MISE À DAY
A ground test of NASA's new mega-rocket for the Moon, which aimed to verify the success of repairs made after two failed liftoff attempts a few weeks ago, was successfully conducted on Wednesday in Florida, the U.S. space agency announced.
“All the goals we set have been met,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the mission's launch director. Artemis 1, which is to be the first of the American return program to the Moon.
At the very beginning of September, the launch of the SLS rocket, the most powerful ever built, had to be canceled at the last minute because of a leak observed when filling its tanks with cryogenic fuel — oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
Hydrogen being highly flammable, these leaks must be avoided at all costs.
NASA has since carried out repairs, replacing a seal at the connection between the rocket and the large pipes feeding it fuel. This gasket had obviously been damaged by debris of unknown origin.
Wednesday's test included refilling the fuel tanks.
A slight leak hydrogen was once again observed during operations, but it was controlled by NASA teams.
Last week, the agency said it was targeting Tuesday, September 27 for the next take-off attempt, in less than a week. A fallback date of October 2 has also been announced.
“Teams will evaluate test data, as well as weather and other factors, before confirming that everything is ready for the Next Launch Opportunity,” NASA said in a blog post. “very encouraged” by the way the test went on Wednesday.
For the September 27 date to be held, NASA also needs to obtain a waiver from the United States Space Force regarding the lifespan batteries of the rocket's emergency self-destruct system, designed to detonate it in the event of a deviating trajectory after takeoff.
This duration was normally limited to 25 days, but the rocket is on its launch pad for much longer.
In addition, the path of Hurricane Fiona, off Florida, is being closely monitored.