NASA will try to restart the Artemis 1 mission on Saturday

NASA will make a second launch attempt of its Space Launch System lunar rocket this Saturday, the agency said, five days after technical problems thwarted a first attempt.

The US space agency made the decision on Monday to delay its first attempt to launch a rocket capable of sending astronauts to the moon in 50 years due to engine problems.

Engineers at the Cape Canaveral, Florida launch site discovered problems with one of the Artemis 1 rocket engines and were unable to fix it in time for the scheduled launch window. Mike Sarafin, head of NASA’s Artemis mission, said on Monday that bad weather also played a role.

Officials said Tuesday they were changing refueling procedures to fix the problem. A bad sensor could also be to blame for Monday’s aborted launch, they noted.

Launching on Saturday will offer additional information, even if the problem reappears and the countdown is again interrupted, said NASA rocket program manager John Honeycutt. It’s better “than us sitting around scratching our heads, was it good enough or not”.

“Based on what I heard from the technical team today, what we need to do is continue to look at the data and refine our plan to put the justification for the flight in place,” did he declare.

The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket, the most powerful NASA has ever built, remains on its base at Kennedy Space Center with an empty crew capsule on top.

The Space Launch System rocket will attempt to send the capsule around the moon and back. No one will be on board, just three test dummies. If successful, it will be the first capsule to fly to the moon since NASA’s Apollo program 50 years ago.

During Monday’s launch attempt, readings showed that one of the rocket’s four core-stage main engines could not be sufficiently cooled before the planned liftoff ignition. It appeared to be up to 40 F (22 C) warmer than the desired -420 F (-250 C) hydrogen temperature, according to Honeycutt. The other three engines came in just a little short.

All engines appear to be fine, according to Honeycutt.

The cooling operation will be carried out half an hour earlier for the launch attempt on Saturday afternoon, once refueling begins that morning. Honeycutt said the timing of this engine cooling was earlier in successful testing last year, so doing it earlier might do the trick.

Honeycutt also questioned the integrity of an engine sensor, saying it may have provided inaccurate data on Monday. Changing that sensor, he noted, would mean bringing the rocket back into the hangar, leading to weeks of delay.

Already years late, the $4.1 billion test flight kicks off NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, named after Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology. Astronauts could strap in as early as 2024 for a lap around the moon and attempt a lunar landing in 2025.

Crowds had flocked to Florida on Monday to watch the launch but were disappointed. The mission has generated excitement as humanity attempts its first return to the Moon since the 1970s.

The effort is expected to cost US taxpayers up to $93 billion, but NASA officials said Americans would find the cost justified.

“It’s now the Artemis generation,” NASA Administrator and former Space Shuttle astronaut Bill Nelson said recently. “We were in the Apollo generation. It’s a new generation. He’s a new type of astronaut.

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