NASA has canceled the launch of a rocket to the moon for the second time. See how she was supposed to fly

NASA has canceled the launch of a rocket to the moon for the second time. See how she was supposed to fly
NASA has canceled the launch of a rocket to the moon for the second time. See how she was supposed to fly

Today at 20:17 CEST, the window for the launch of the SLS rocket with the Orion module to the Moon was supposed to open for two hours. NASA had previously stated on its website that it was having trouble with a fuel leak, and a few hours later canceled the launch entirely.

It was the second attempt to take off the spaceship with the biggest thrust, but also the price in the world, within one week. Its development was prolonged due to a problem with the engines, which interrupted the launch to the moon this Monday as well. At the same time, it is soon to fly with people.

NASA first reported today that it is solving problems with fuel leaks during refueling. “While trying to get fuel into the rocket, a leak was detected. Attempts to correct it so far have been unsuccessful,” she said at first

. She later said that the problem had not been resolved and that the launch was being delayed.

Back to the moon

In four to five years, man will finally return to the lunar surface after more than half a century. The American government’s space agency, NASA, is planning this as part of the Artemis program, which it launched in June. It was then that he sent a revolutionary new probe to Earth’s natural satellite testing a unique orbit for the future Gateway Lunar Station necessary for the reconquest of the Moon by humans.

And this Monday, at 14:33 CEST, the Artemis 1 mission was to start with the ignition of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket engines. During this unmanned test flight, the most powerful spacecraft in history was supposed to help bring the Orion ship, which has a number of systems and technologies on board, into lunar orbit – including mannequins imitating mainly female bodies, to be tested before the subsequent flight with humans. But it was the engines that led to the cancellation and postponement of the start. Today, a similar problem happened that derailed NASA’s plans.

Information about how the rocket was supposed to launch and the entire mission can be heard with animations and can also be viewed in the introductory video report. She also explains the entire Artemis program.

What could have delayed the launch of the rocket and why is it so expensive

Hundreds of thousands of people came to Florida to watch the start on Monday. But engineers stopped the countdown about 41 minutes before his time because they discovered that one of the SLS rocket’s four engines had not cooled to the minus 250 degrees Celsius required before injecting the even colder hydrogen-oxygen fuel mixture, and instead was five degrees Celsius warmer .

To avoid the same mistake at today’s alternate date, NASA was preparing a different fueling process for the launch. Apparently, this attempt didn’t work either.

The rocket was originally supposed to take off already in December 2016. Therefore, its increasing budget, which started at seven billion and today allegedly exceeds three times with inflation – 23 billion, is often criticized.

The price of the launch itself has also doubled in that time to more than four billion dollars, which with the final space for the cargo weighing almost 70 tons comes out to about $58,700 per kilogram. At the same time, the upcoming Starship from SpaceX, with a capacity of at least 100 tons of cargo, promises a price of only 10 dollars per kilogram.

What we know about SLS and how powerful it is

Today’s alternate SLS launch date was supposed to start at 20:17 CET and, like on Monday, the window of opportunity was open for two hours.

The SLS stands over 98 meters tall and can now carry about 27 tons of cargo to the Moon. Which is almost a third less than what its predecessor from the time of the Apollo missions managed – the legendary Saturn V carrier measuring more than 110 meters. In contrast, it weighs 2.6 million tons, i.e. 300,000 tons less, and has 15 percent more thrust.

The super rocket owes its record-breaking power to four RS-25 engines, which also carried the legendary shuttles – its central stage has just one more than them. However, two additional carriers on the sides of the SLS are also key, which differentiates it from the Saturn V. These separate after two minutes and 12 seconds of flight, and after eight minutes and 20 seconds the central stage does the same after burning fuel. Only the upper one will remain, carrying the second key part of the unmanned test mission – the Orion ship.

“It is the safest space craft ever made for astronauts. The Artemis 1 mission will also fly further than we’ve ever flown – over 40,000 miles to the moon, and we’re very excited to watch it,” said Kelly DeFazio, who managed Orion’s production at Lockheed Martin, at a press conference on Friday.

“At its furthest point, the ship will be almost 467 thousand kilometers from Earth before it begins to return home; and it is also the first crew-qualified mission in more than 50 years,” added Mike Sarafin, mission manager for NASA before the canceled flights.

No astronauts yet. NASA exposes the ship to the worst

With a height of over three meters and a diameter of five meters, Orion has the potential capacity for up to six astronauts. But now they are flying to the moon without a crew for the time being. The Artemis 1 mission was to first check all the important systems of the ship, the rocket, as well as the methods and procedures of the US space agency itself and its control center.

“This is a test flight, and it is not without risks. But we analyzed them as best as we could, and we also minimized them as much as we could. But we will be pushing Orion beyond what it was designed for. When preparing to send a crew to the moon, we want to be sure that everything works perfectly and we also understand all the risks. And we will learn a lot from this test,” explained Bob Cabana, NASA’s deputy director.

“The heat shield on the back of it will show us, for example, how we took material from the days of the Apollo missions and brought it with a new manufacturing method into the times of the 21st century,” said one of the contributions of the mission DeFazio of Lockheed Martin.

However, perhaps the most essential part of Orion for NASA was not supplied by any American company, but by the European Space Agency (ESA). And it will be launched and tested two hours and six minutes after launch.

An important part of the ship is from Europe. Inside, the mannequins fly almost as if they were alive

This will deploy the ship’s solar panels and the two additional ignitions of the upper stage will bring it to the appropriate height. The last part of the SLS rocket will also separate and Orion will finally ignite its own engine, which is part of the European Service Module (ESM), in addition to the oxygen and water supplies for future astronauts. In the future, NASA will also carry ESA astronauts to the Moon in exchange for this key part of the spacecraft.

But instead of real people, three mannequins made of materials imitating human bones, soft tissues and organs of an adult woman were to travel in Orion. Two of them are equipped with 5,600 sensors and 16 detectors to monitor radiation levels. While the third was to test a protective vest from Israel.

With this crew, the ship was supposed to circle the Moon in a translunar orbit, i.e. in the shape of a figure of eight, three times in 42 days – and return to Earth on October 10. She was supposed to fall into the Pacific Ocean. NASA wanted to use the data obtained during the entire test mission in the continuation of the Artemis program.

Other points of the Artemis program. A station near the Moon is also to be built

As part of the Artemis 2 mission, in May 2024 SLS and Orion were to repeat the same flight with a crew. And at the end of 2025, as part of the Artemis 3 mission, the landing of astronauts was to follow – i.e. the first women and people of color on the surface of the moon.

But the Artemis program also includes the gradual construction of the Gateway space station in lunar orbit. The basis will be two modules assembled on Earth, which will take off from land in November 2024 in the Falcon Heavy rocket from SpaceX. They will provide astronauts in lunar orbit with the life support necessary for longer missions, including landings on the lunar surface.

But NASA hopes the station will also serve as a permanent base and a springboard for a manned mission to Mars in the next decade. When complete, it should have a living space of 55 cubic meters, about one-fifth the size of the International Space Station (ISS). Four astronauts will be able to live and work on it. And it will be necessary to investigate how to use the ice hidden on the poles of the Moon to produce hydrogen fuel for trips to the Red Planet.

Additional delays and overall program costs

In addition to the SLS rocket, the development of the HLS lunar lander, which is the fourth main pillar of the Artemis program after SLS, Orion and Gateway, has also been delayed, reportedly delaying the landing of humans on the moon from 2024 to 2025. As the main reason, NASA cited a seven-month long judicial at.

The contract for the development and construction of HLS for 2.9 billion dollars was awarded to SpaceX. However, the decision was challenged by rival company Blue Origin, which was also interested in the contract for the HLS lander. At the time of the trial, the US space agency allegedly could not discuss the development with Elon Musk’s company.

According to NASA’s own regulatory agency, the agency plans to spend $93 billion on the Artemis program by 2025. “At the same time, we project that the current costs for the production and operation of SLS and Orion during the Artemis 1 to Artemis 4 missions will reach 4.1 billion per launch. Even though the agency aimed to reduce the price to make the launches more affordable,” added the inspection office.

The article is in Czech

Tags: NASA canceled launch rocket moon time supposed fly

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