NASA’s new moon rocket will reportedly be taken off the launch pad to its processing hangar to correct various problems with flight and ground systems that canceled three dress-rehearsal fueling attempts.
It is unclear when the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will be ready for its maiden flight, which will send an unmanned Orion crew capsule on a round trip beyond the moon.
However, managers at NASA agreed that a launch by June will be challenging. They did not reveal the process of the repair work.
Tom Whitmeyer, a Senior Manager of Exploration System at NASA Headquarters, cited that the repair operations are complicated, and the organization wants to get them right.
The 33-storied SLS rocket, NASA’s most powerful rocket ever built, is years behind schedule and billions over budget.
Mounted on top of a mobile launch platform, it was tugged from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) of the Kennedy Space Center on March 18th for a key fuelling exercise and dress-rehearsal countdown.
But three attempts of loading the rocket with over 750,000 gallons of hydrogen fuel and super-cold liquid oxygen failed due to a variety of hardware and procedure-related problems, including trouble getting sufficient gaseous nitrogen for safety systems to the launchpad and more troubling issues like a hydrogen leak in the umbilical fitting of a launchpad.
Other issues comprised a faulty valve in the upper stage of the rocket that cannot be changed at the launch pad. That avoided any attempt to provide fuel to the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System (ICPS) stage.
The space agency asserted over the weekend that instead of making a fourth try to fuel the SLS core stage, the rocket will be tugged back to the VAB for further repairs.
Despite the time lost, the agency is optimistic that it will perform a dress rehearsal, exhibit cryo loading and exhibit terminal countdown.