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Fuel leak disrupts NASAs 2nd shot at launching moon rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. NASA on Saturday called off another try to launch the agency’s new moon rocket on an integral test flight following a hazardous leak was detected through the fueling process.

The leak occurred because the launch team began loading nearly 1 million gallons of fuel in to the 322-foot (98-meter)rocket, probably the most powerful ever built by NASA. A previous liftoff attempt Monday was halted by way of a bad engine sensor and leaking fuel.

NASA won’t attempt another liftoff through the current launch period, which ends Tuesday, Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, said throughout a news conference Saturday afternoon.

Because the sun rose on the launch pad, an over-pressure alarm sounded and the tanking operation was briefly halted, but no damage occurred and your time and effort resumed. But minutes later, hydrogen fuel began leaking from the engine section in the bottom of the rocket. NASA halted the operation, while engineers scrambled to plug that which was thought to be a gap around a seal in the supply line.

An operations team tried 3 x to seal the large leak, but was struggling to, Artemis mission manager Mike Serafin said through the news conference.

The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket
The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket sits on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Sept. 2, 2022.Chandan Khanna / AFP via Getty Images

NASA had a two-hour-long launch window Saturday to find the rocket into orbit.

NASA really wants to send the crew capsule atop the rocket round the moon, pushing it to the limit before astronauts can get on another flight. If the test flights are successful, astronauts could fly round the moon in 2024 and land onto it in 2025. People last walked on the moon 50 years back.

On Monday, hydrogen fuel escaped from elsewhere in the rocket. Technicians tightened up the fittings in the last week, but launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson stressed that she wouldnt know whether everything was tight until Saturdays fueling.

A lot more of an issue on Monday, a sensor indicated among the rockets four engines was too warm, but engineers later verified it was cold enough. The launch team planned to disregard the faulty sensor these times and depend on other instruments to make sure each main engine was properly chilled.

Before igniting, the primary engines have to be as frigid because the liquid hydrogen fuel flowing into them at minus-420 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-250 degrees Celsius). Or even, the resulting damage may lead to an abrupt engine shutdown and aborted flight.

Mission managers accepted the excess risk posed by the engine issue in addition to a separate problem: cracks in the rockets insulating foam. However they acknowledged that other problems such as for example fuel leaks could prompt another delay.

That didnt stop thousands from jamming the coast to start to see the Space Launch System rocket soar. Local authorities expected massive crowds due to the long Labor Day holiday weekend.

The $4.1 billion test flight may be the first rung on the ladder in NASAs Artemis program of renewed lunar exploration, named following the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology.

Twelve astronauts walked on the moon during NASAs Apollo program in 1972.

Artemis years behind schedule and billions over budget aims to determine a sustained human presence on the moon, with crews eventually spending weeks at the same time there. Its considered an exercise ground for Mars.

Denise Chow is really a reporter for NBC News Science centered on general science and climate change.

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