NASA has once again delayed the last major test of its Space Launch System (SLS), which will be used to carry humans to the Moon first, then to Mars and beyond. The agency announced that it had suspended the “wetsuit rehearsal” after problems maintaining pressure in the mobile launcher – which provides support for the rocket until launch – prevented technicians from loading in safety of propellants in the rocket. Lightning strikes were also reported on Saturday. Engineers have been working to resolve the issues and NASA updated its intention to resume final testing ahead of the Artemis I uncrewed mission on Monday.
Dress rehearsal before the 322-foot Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket was cleared to fly began Friday at Kennedy Space Center and was due to end Sunday. However, some Mobile Launcher fans failed to maintain positive pressure in enclosed areas. This pressure is necessary to keep dangerous gases away. As a result, NASA engineers could not “proceed safely” with the fuel loading process, the agency said, adding that they were exploring the next opportunity to load the fuel on Monday (April 4).
We are targeting Monday, April 4 to resume the @NASAArtemis I wet the dress rehearsal. The launch control team will meet at 6 a.m. ET (10:00 a.m. UTC) before deciding whether to proceed with propellant loading.
-NASA (@NASA) April 3, 2022
“Teams decided to clean up refueling operations for dress rehearsal due to loss of ability to pressurize the mobile launcher,” NASA said in a blog post.
A wet dress rehearsal involves going through all the procedures, including loading hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel into the rocket, except for its launch. On Saturday evening, while testing was underway, NASA encountered harsh weather conditions when lightning struck the lightning towers around the mega rocket’s launch pad. NASA said there were four lightning strikes, including one of higher intensity.
The SLS, comprising the superheavy launch vehicle and the Orion spacecraft, is set to launch on the first uncrewed mission this summer – Artemis 1. After that, it will carry astronauts to the Moon, the first time in more than three decades. NASA intends to use the SLS for future human missions to Mars as part of the Artemis program.