NASA moon rocket Artemis set for launch after hurricanes, tech issues - VIDEO -

2 February, Thursday

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NASA moon rocket Artemis set for launch after hurricanes, tech issues - VIDEO

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Cape Canaveral, Florida: Ground teams at Kennedy Space Centre have filled the main fuel tanks of NASA’s towering, next-generation moon rocket for its debut launch, a flight to kick off the US space agency’s Artemis program 50 years after the last Apollo lunar mission.
The 32-storey rocket is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral at Florida during a two-hour window from 5.04 pm AEDT on Wednesday. The launch vehicle will send the Orion capsule on a 25-day test flight around the moon and back without astronauts aboard.
NASA managers on Monday gave the “go” to proceed with flight preparations after facing engineering difficulties, back-to-back hurricanes and two excursions trundling the spacecraft out of its hangar to the launch pad.
Late in the countdown, a new potential problem emerged as NASA officials reported what appeared to be a hydrogen leak in the rocket’s upper-stage fuel lines, leading launch managers to assemble a special “red team” of technicians to visit the pad with the goal of tightening a key connection.
A short time earlier, NASA chief Bill Nelson had sounded a note of optimism amid fuel-loading operations and other pre-flight activities that had by all accounts gone smoothly.
“I’m feeling good,” he told Reuters. “But you don’t go until it’s ready, and this is a test flight.”
Launch attempts on August 29 and September 3 were aborted because of fuel line leaks and other technical problems that NASA has since resolved. While moored to its launch pad last week, the rocket endured fierce winds and rains from Hurricane Nicole, forcing a two-day flight postponement.
Weather is always a factor beyond NASA’s control. The latest forecast called for an 80 per cent chance of favourable conditions during Wednesday’s two-hour launch window, NASA said.
On Wednesday, launch teams began the lengthy and delicate process of loading the rocket’s core-stage fuel tanks with hundreds of thousands of gallons of super-cooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant.
About five hours before lift-off, those tanks were filled, achieving a “major milestone” in launch preparations, a NASA spokesperson said. Crews continued to top off the tanks periodically to replenish small amounts of propellant as the liquid gases gradually boiled off as vapor.
Dubbed Artemis I, the mission marks the first flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion capsule together, built by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, respectively, under contract with NASA.
It also signals a major change in direction for NASA’s post-Apollo human spaceflight program after decades focused on low-Earth orbit with space shuttles and the International Space Station.


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