Return to garage for SLS. NASA’s new giant rocket for the Moon will be brought back to its assembly building to undergo modifications, the American space agency announced on Monday April 18, after a first test missed at its launch pad in Florida.
Despite several attempts to carry out this test at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA encountered a series of problems. A defective valve will in particular have to be changed, an operation which could not be carried out on the launch pad. A leak was also discovered during the last filling operations of the main stage with liquid hydrogen, which will have to be solved.
For “any new launch system, when it first goes through this process, that’s the kind of stuff you learn”NASA justified. “The vehicle itself works very well, but the operations are very complicated.” The test consists of repeating all the steps leading up to a launch, from the filling of the tanks to the final countdown, stopped just before the ignition of the engines.
The American agency has not yet specified when it intends to carry out a new test, but repairs in the assembly building will take at least several weeks.
The first mission of the US lunar return program, Artemis 1, will mark the first flight of SLS, whose development has been years behind schedule. The mission will take place without an astronaut on board: the Orion capsule, located at the top of the rocket, will be propelled to the Moon and placed in orbit, before returning to Earth.
A launch window was possible in early June, but is now proving very difficult to hold, according to NASA. The following launch windows, determined in particular by the position of the Earth and the Moon, extend from June 29 to July 12, then from July 26 to August 9. Take-off, initially announced for the end of 2021, has already been repeatedly postponed.