NASA scrubs Artemis I lunar launch due to fuel leaks
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NASA scrubs Artemis I lunar launch due to fuel leaks

Launch clock frozen at T-40 minutes as NASA officials call off planned launch

News Service AA

NASA scrubbed its new moon rocket launch Monday morning after fuel leaks were discovered just an hour before the scheduled launch of the Artemis I mission.

The launch was frozen at T-40 minutes at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as NASA officials discussed how to address leaks that were discovered during fueling.

NASA said it cancelled the launch due to the "engine bleed" after the rocket was largely fueled. Engineers are now collecting data "about this particular engine and the bleed that didn’t work out," NASA said on its official broadcast.

The rocket has yet to be drained of the hydrogen fuel to allow engineers to gather as much data as possible.

The earliest date that the launch could proceed would be 12:48 pm local time (1648 GMT) on Sept. 2, but NASA first needs to develop a plan to address the "engine bleed."

The planned launch was slated to include an uncrewed flight test ahead of human lunar exploration planned under the Artemis program. The launch is expected to send an uncrewed Orion crew capsule into orbit around the moon.

The capsule is set to fly as close as 60 miles (97 kilometers) to the moon’s surface before taking a wider orbit. Mannequins with high-tech monitors are riding in place of humans and will send critical data back to NASA, including on radiation levels, one of the most significant threats to astronauts in deep space.

The SLS rocket is the most powerful developed by the US, and has been the cause of major cost overruns, upping the pressure on NASA to carry out a successful launch.

Both the Orion capsule and SLS rocket remain in a "safe and stable configuration."

The test is a critical step in the space agency’s plans to resume manned lunar exploration missions, and is slated to provide the space agency with a foundation for a human presence on the moon. NASA plans to build a base camp on the lunar surface for a long-term human presence.

That site is planned to serve as a jumping-off point for further space exploration, including manned missions to Mars.

NASA has not sent a manned mission to the moon in nearly 50 years.

Investigations of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster, which took the lives of all seven astronauts on board, including civilian schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, found that pressure to increase the number of launches had compromised quality control and needed repairs.

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