Artemis: Nasa calls off new Moon rocket launchon August 29, 2022 at 6:29 pm

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Controllers struggle to get one of the rocket’s engines to cool to its correct operating temperature.

NASA's next-generation moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) Artemis 1 rocket with its Orion crew capsule stands on launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral,Image source, Reuters

Nasa has called off the launch of its big new Moon rocket – the Space Launch System (SLS).

Controllers struggled to get an engine on the 100m-tall vehicle cooled down to its correct operating temperature.

They had previously worried about what appeared to be a crack high up on the rocket but eventually determined it was merely frost build-up.

The SLS is the biggest rocket ever developed by Nasa. It will be used to send astronauts back to the Moon.

The maiden flight, part of Nasa’s Artemis programme, is just a demonstration with no-one on board. But ever more complex missions are planned for the future that will see people live on the lunar surface for weeks at a time.


Image source, Reuters

The scrub will have disappointed the hundreds of thousands of spectators who had gathered on local beaches and causeways to see the most powerful rocket in 50 years fly skyward.

But Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson, himself a one-time astronaut, said the cautious approach was the right one.

“We don’t launch until it’s right,” he stressed. “And I think it’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system. And all those things have to work. And you don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go.”

Nasa has the option to try again on Friday, if the engine issue can be resolved by then.

Worryingly, this particular power unit also played up during a recent countdown rehearsal.

If controllers have to roll the rocket back to Kennedy’s assembly building to swap out the engine, it will introduce several weeks’ delay.

Nasa also has to be mindful of the weather. Conditions here in Florida are very dynamic at this time of year. Electrical storms frequently pass over the spaceport. It’s best to try to launch in the morning. It’s generally calmer. But the opportunity this Friday and on Monday next are afternoon launch windows.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
Presentational white space

When it eventually lifts off, the rocket’s job will be to propel a test capsule, called Orion, far from the Earth.

This spacecraft will loop around the Moon on a big arc before returning home to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean six weeks later.

Orion will be uncrewed for the first mission, but – assuming all the hardware works as it should – astronauts will climb aboard for a future series of missions, starting in 2024.

The current mission’s chief objective actually comes right at the end of the 42-day flight.

Engineers are most concerned to see that Orion’s heatshield will cope with the extreme temperatures it will encounter on re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere.

Orion will be coming in very fast – at 38,000km/h (24,000mph), or 32 times the speed of sound.

Graphic of SLS

“Even the reinforced carbon-carbon that protected the shuttle was only good for around 3,000F (1,600C),” said Mike Hawes, the Orion programme manager at aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

“Now, we’re coming in at more than 4,000F (2,200C). We’ve gone back to the Apollo ablative material called Avcoat. It’s in blocks with a gap filler, and testing that is a high priority.”

The European Space Agency has provided the service module for Orion. This is the rear section that pushes the capsule through space. It’s an in-kind contribution that Europe hopes will lead to its nationals being included in future journeys to the surface of the Moon.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Several missions are being planned – currently it’s up to Artemis IX.

By that stage there should be habitats and roving vehicles on the Moon for astronauts to use.

But ultimately, Artemis is seen as a proving ground to get people to Mars.

“The timetable for that was set by President Obama. He said 2033,” recalled Mr Nelson.

“Each successive administration has supported the programme and the realistic timeframe that I’m now informed is the late 2030s, maybe 2040.”

Vice President Kamala Harris

Image source, EPA

- Advertisement -




Afghanistan: Taliban take 10th provincial capital as Ghazni fallson August 12, 2021 at 10:20 am

The fall of Ghazni, south-west of Kabul, brings the militants closer to the Afghan capital.For years, Mr Ghani tried to sideline the warlords in...

Six Nations 2021: Kieran Hardy darts in to put Wales in command against Englandon February 27, 2021 at 6:43 pm

Kieran Hardy catches England napping at a set piece again to score a crucial try for Wales during an emphatic 40-24 victory.

South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies at 90on December 26, 2021 at 8:22 am

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace prize laureate who helped end apartheid in South Africa, has died aged 90Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace...

Euro 2022: ‘Unreal scenes!’ – Chloe Kelly gives England lead in extra timeon July 31, 2022 at 6:34 pm

Chloe Kelly pokes in at the second time of asking to provide England with a late advantage over Germany in the Euro 2022 final...

World Cup 2022: Gary Lineker in Qatar to ‘report, not support’ controversial tournamenton November 18, 2022 at 8:33 pm

Gary Lineker says he is in Qatar to "report, not support" the World Cup and will discuss the issues surrounding the "tainted" tournament on...