The fourth attempt at a final pre-launch test began on Saturday, and rocket feeding is expected to begin on Monday morning.
The crucial test, known as the wet general test, simulates each stage of the launch without the rocket exiting the launch pad of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
This process includes loading superfred propellant, going through a full countdown simulating the launch, resetting the countdown clock, and draining the tanks from the rockets.
The results of the general wet test will determine when the unmanned Artemis I will be launched on a mission that goes beyond the Moon and back to Earth. This mission will launch NASA’s Artemis program, which is expected to return humans to the moon and land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in 2025.
Three previous attempts at the wet general test in April were unsuccessful, and they concluded earlier that the rocket could be fully propelled due to several leaks. Since then, they have been corrected, says NASA.
The NASA team rolled the 322-foot (98-meter-high) Artemis I rocket stack, including the spacecraft, and the Orion spacecraft back to the Center launch pad. Kennedy Space in Florida on June 6th.
Wet suit rehearsal steps
The wet suit rehearsal began Saturday at 5 pm ET with a “call to the stations” when all the teams associated with the mission arrive on their consoles and report that they are ready for the test to begin and start a two-day . countdown.
The preparations for the weekend will allow the Artemis team to start loading propellant into the core and into the upper stages of the rocket.
There is currently a live view of the rocket on the NASA website, with intermittent comments.
The tank was suspended on Monday morning due to a problem identified with the supply of nitrogen gas reserves. The launch team replaced the valve causing the problem. To make sure the backup supply works as expected, it has been changed to the primary supply for today’s test.
Retention was lifted at 9:28 a.m. ET. Liquid oxygen, cooled to minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 182 degrees Celsius), and liquid hydrogen were used to fill the center stage before moving to the upper stage of the rocket. Ventilation has been visible from the rocket throughout the process.
The main stage was mostly filled and the team was filling the upper stage when several problems occurred shortly after 2 pm ET.
The team discovered a hydrogen leak in a fast disconnect line for the main stage and is fixing it. Their first choice did not work and they are looking for another way to seal the leak.
Something in the flares pile, where the excess liquid hydrogen from the rocket burned us with propane flames, has caused a small grass fire burning towards a dirt road. The team is monitoring the lawn fire and does not expect it to become a problem because the fire is likely to be extinguished when it reaches the dirt road.
The four rocket tanks are currently full.
The test has exceeded an expected 30-minute wait, which has been extended as engineers try to work on solutions for the hydrogen leak.
If the leak can’t be sealed today, the Artemis team can do the planned countdown and see how far they can go.
There are two countdowns during the rehearsal of the wet suit. First, team members will go through a countdown to 33 seconds before launch and then stop the cycle. The clock will restart; then the countdown will resume and run up to about 10 seconds before a launch occurs.
“During the test, the computer may be held during the countdown as necessary to verify the conditions before resuming the countdown, or extend beyond the test window, if necessary and resources allow “, according to an update on the NASA website.
Previous attempts at wet clothing testing have already completed many goals to prepare the rocket for launch, said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director for NASA’s Earth Exploration Systems program, during a press conference wednesday.
“We hope to finish them this time and overcome the cryogenic loading operations along with the terminal count,” he said. “Our team is ready to go and we’re looking forward to going back to this test.”
The mission team is looking for possible launch windows to send Artemis I on its journey to the moon in late summer: August 23-29, September 2-6, and beyond.
Once the Artemis rocket stack completes its wet general rehearsal, it will roll back into the space center’s vehicle assembly building to await launch day.
There is a long history behind the arduous testing of new systems before launch, and the Artemis team faces experiences similar to those of the Apollo and Shuttle-era teams, including multiple test attempts and delays.
“There is no one on the team who shuns the responsibility we have to manage ourselves and our contractors and delivering and delivering means meeting the goals of the flight tests for (Artemis I) and meeting the goals of the Artemis I. program, “said Jim Free, associate director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, during last week’s press conference.