Artemis I Rocket Leaks Liquid Hydrogen, NASA Pushes Through

SLS rocket and Orion on the pad 9 photos
Photo: NASA via Twitter
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Folks, today (Aug 29) is the big day! In a few hours, NASA is expected to kick off the Artemis Moon exploration program. The massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft are scheduled to lift off from Kennedy's Launch Pad 39B. Everything seemed to go smoothly for the launch, but earlier today, the team noticed a hydrogen leak during fueling.
The SLS rocket's core stage, which stands more than 212-ft-tall (64.6-meter-tall), can hold approximately 730,000 gallons (~3,318,600 liters) of super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to power the engines.
NASA began fueling the SLS rocket at about 2:06 a.m. EDT. The tanking operations started with the chill down or cooling of the propellant lines to load the liquid oxygen. After cooling the lines, teams proceeded with the slow fill of the rocket's core stage and then went to liquid oxygen quick fill. They also completed the chilldown of lines for liquid hydrogen and began the slow fill.

Everything looked good up until that point, but during the transition from the slow fill of liquid hydrogen to fast fill operations, "launch controllers saw a spike in the amount of hydrogen that is allowed to leak into the purge can, a housing covering the tail service mast umbilical's quick disconnect, or mating interface with the rocket."

This is not the first time NASA had a leak problem with its core stage. During a pre-launch test held in June, teams noticed a hydrogen leak in the fueling process. At the time, they didn't consider the issue should prevent progress in their rehearsal. Moreover, in a blog post, the agency said that the cause of the hydrogen leak that occurred in the early hours of Monday may not be the same.

NASA also concluded that it "was an acceptable level," so it resumed operations. The SLS' core stage liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks have been fully fueled, and the teams got the green light to start fueling the rocket's upper stage. The upper stage will be the one to give Orion the big push it needs to head further than any human-rated spacecraft has ever gone.

Currently, the agency is working towards the launch window that opens at 8:33 a.m. EDT. Hopefully, everything will go on smoothly, and we'll witness the historic moment when the rocket, together with the capsule, lifts off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. For more updates, you can check our live text coverage of the launch.
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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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