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First Major Hurdle for Return to the Moon Is Called SLS, Rocket to Be Removed From the Pad

In hindsight, one could say it was obvious from the get-go the first major test of the Space Launch System rocket (SLS) would fail. Maybe not entirely, and not decisively, but just enough to push back humanity’s return to the Moon for who knows how long.
SLS going back to VAB this week 13 photos
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Ever since the end of March (that would be almost one month ago), the American space agency has been trying to conduct something called a wet dress rehearsal test. Engineers failed, time and again, to complete the procedure that required, essentially, for the tanks to be filled with fuel, a countdown to be conducted, and the tanks to be drained.

On three separate occasions, a series of issues conspired to prevent the procedure to be fully completed. We had anything from temperature limit issues to pressure regulating glitches and even some lightning storms to go with them.

As it stands, the SLS is still there on the pad, but now it’s no longer waiting for a re-do of the test. Instead, NASA announced last week the rocket will be removed and sent back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a move which should happen today, for repairs to “a faulty helium check valve and a hydrogen leak on the mobile launcher.” Upgrades to the pipeline configuration will also be performed.

The VAB was where the SLS would have went anyway after a successful wet dress rehearsal test, but it would have done so to get ready for the actual launch of the first mission of the Artemis program.

Now, when these repairs will be ready (unclear when that will be), the rocket will once again go to the pad, try to pass the full test, then go back into the VAB for checkouts, and then roll out once more for the actual launch. This puts an inevitable delay in NASA’s Artemis timetable, shacky as it was given how it was heavily dependent on things going perfectly.

At the time of writing, there is no telling how far back these issues have pushed the program, but one thing is clear by now: the SLS has become Artemis’ first major hurdle.

 
 
 
 
 

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