NASA delays dress rehearsal for new mega-rocket

NASA today suspended the last major test of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket after pressurization issues prevented technicians from safely loading propellants into the rocket. The test – known as the wet dress rehearsal – has been rescheduled for Monday, April 4 at the earliest, NASA announced in a post on the Artemis I live blog.

“Teams decided to clean up refueling operations for dress rehearsal due to loss of ability to pressurize the mobile launcher,” NASA explained. Some fans in the mobile launcher – the platform that provides support for the rocket until launch – were unable to maintain positive pressure, which is crucial for keeping dangerous gases away. As a result, NASA technicians could not “safely continue” the fuel loading process.

This kind of dress rehearsal gets its “wet” tag since it’s essentially a walkthrough of all the procedures NASA will need to perform on the first real launch of SLS, including filling the rocket with 322 feet with 700,000 gallons of propellant. At a Sunday night press conference, NASA said its team is currently on the launch pad trying to fix the problem. The agency says it’s on track to resume dress rehearsal tomorrow.

The test began April 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and was scheduled to end on Sunday. NASA encountered inclement weather on Saturday evening as lightning struck the towers around the SLS launch pad. Jeremy Parsons, deputy program manager at NASA Exploration Ground Systems, said one of the strikes was one of the strongest NASA has seen since the lightning protection system was installed. “He hit the catenary wire that connects the 3 towers”, Parsons wrote in a tweet from the EGS Twitter account. “The system worked extremely well and kept SLS and Orion safe.”

The SLS is supposed to carry the Orion spacecraft on an uncrewed mission around the Moon as part of the Artemis program, a flight called Artemis I. This mission, tentatively scheduled for this summer, is supposed to prepare the rocket – and the NASA – for the mission that will eventually transport humans to the lunar surface.

You can continue to check for updates on the test on NASA’s live blog, as well as the agency’s website. Twitter.

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