NASA expected to announce whether Artemis I can launch without VAB rollback


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – This week, NASA is expected to share the results of its continued discussions with the U.S. Space Force as it tries to avoid rolling its moon rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for safety checks, a process that could take weeks.

Agency officials said Wednesday all objectives were met in the latest cryogenic demonstration test of the Space Launch System. Those objectives — assessing engineers’ repair of a hydrogen leak, loading propellant using new procedures, performing a “kick-start bleed” to simulate pre-launch engine thermal conditioning and completing a pre-pressurization test — have produced data that teams said will be weighed with weather and other factors in order to confirm a launch opportunity. In the event no further issues occur, Artemis I is set to try again for launch Sept. 27.

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A crucial test was completed Wednesday to determine whether another launch attempt of the Artemis I mission can happen. All objectives were met and now the space agency must review the data before deciding whether to move forward with another launch attempt on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

Space Launch Delta 45 — the U.S. Space Force unit in charge of the Eastern Range, and thus of approving all rocket launches on the Space Coast — originally granted NASA a period of 20 days to launch SLS before the rocket’s Flight Termination System required recertification. Once that window lapsed, NASA was granted a five-day extension which has also since passed.

The following statement from SLD 45, dated Sept. 8, described NASA’s latest request to extend the FTA certification further.

Space Launch Delta 45, operator of the Eastern Range, is in discussions with NASA to review its request for an extension of the certification of the Space Launch System rocket’s Flight Termination System. The launch criteria for each vehicle are used to develop mission rules that govern the allowable flight behavior to ensure public safety, which is the foremost job of the Eastern Range.

SLD 45 and the Eastern Range have enjoyed a trusted partnership with NASA that dates back to the earliest days of human spaceflight. SLD 45 will continue to provide NASA the launch infrastructure and range resources required to assure safe access to space.

Heather L. Scott, Chief of Media Operations – Space Launch Delta 45 Public Affairs

Given that the FTS is in charge of destroying SLS should the rocket go off course, as well as how some aspects of the battery recertification process can only be performed at the VAB, it’s up to the Eastern Range to either allow a launch attempt this upcoming Tuesday, or to push the launch back at least several more weeks.

A crucial test was completed Wednesday to determine whether another launch attempt of the Artemis I mission can happen.

Until that decision is reached, the rocket sits perched “in a safe configuration” at Launch Pad 39B, according to NASA’s blog.

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