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Hydrogen Leak Is Artemis I’s New Name, Problem Just Won’t Go Away

Hydrogen leak, hydrogen leak, hydrogen leak. Somehow, these simple words have been used so often these past few months when talking about the Artemis I mission that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between the two.
Artemis I on the pad during August launch attempt 13 photos
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Having first appeared during the wet dress rehearsal tests back in April and May, the problem was stubborn enough to stick around right up until launch day, when it forced NASA’s hand into canceling the planned debut of the Artemis Moon exploration program.

After the last time this happened, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket stayed on the pad and was fixed (again) right there. Rocket scientists replaced the seals on an interface for the liquid hydrogen fuel line between the SLS and the mobile launcher, modified procedures, and implemented more software automation in the hopes the cryogenic test scheduled for September 21 would go without a hitch. It didn’t.

As NASA was proceeding with the test yesterday, “a hydrogen leak in a cavity in the tail service mast umbilical” was (again) detected. We’re told the agency’s engineers were “able to troubleshoot the issue and proceed with the planned activities.”

Having seemingly learned nothing from the wet dress rehearsal tests, when it essentially decided to ignore the problem, NASA now says “all objectives have been met for the cryogenic demonstration test.” That means it learned all there was to learn about the repairs conducted, loading of propellants, the kick-start bleed, and pre-pressurization.

This time though, NASA no longer says it’s ready to go for launch at the end of the month and seems to be taking a more cautious approach. It now says “teams will evaluate the data from the test, along with weather and other factors, before confirming readiness to proceed into the next launch opportunity.”

Judging by the way things look at the moment, chances are we’ll not see the Artemis I launch this month, and possibly not even by the time this year ends.


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