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WASHINGTON (AFP) – NASA’s massive new rocket to the Moon, the SLS, will be taken back to its assembly building for modifications after the first failed test at the Florida launch pad, with takeoff almost certain to be pushed back to the summer of its first mission.
Despite several attempts to perform this test at Kennedy Space Center, the US Space Agency teams encountered a number of problems, which led them to decide to return the rocket to a shelter before redoing this final dress rehearsal. .
A faulty valve would notably have to be replaced, an operation that could not be performed on the launch pad.
A leak was also detected during the final filling operation of the main stage with liquid hydrogen, which would have to be resolved.
“For any new launch system, when it first goes through this process, you learn things like that,” Tom Whitmeyer, the head of systems development exploration at NASA, justified Monday during a press conference.
“The vehicle itself works great, but the operation is very complicated,” he said.
The test consisted of repeating all the steps from filling the tanks to the final countdown – the engine stopped just before it caught fire.
NASA has not yet specified when it wants to test a new one, said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis’s director of launch, but repairs in the assembly building will take at least several weeks.
Artemis is the name given to the American return to the Moon program.
The first mission, Artemis 1, will mark the first flight of the SLS, whose development has been years behind schedule. The mission will take place without an astronaut on board: the Orion capsule, mounted on top of the rocket, will be taken to the Moon and placed in orbit before returning to Earth.
The take-off date should be announced after the dress rehearsal.
A launch window as early as June was possible, but it is proving too difficult to hold now, Tom Whitmire said Monday.
The following launch windows, specifically determined by the positions of the Earth and Moon, extend from June 29 to July 12, then from July 26 to August 9.
The take-off, initially announced for the end of 2021, has already been postponed several times.
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