NASA plans modified ‘wet dress’ for SLS Moon rocket following valve issues

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An important test for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is about to begin (again). Earlier this year, NASA assembled the Artemis 1 SLS rocket and transported it to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center. However, a valve problem with the fan and rocket in the tower delayed the “wet dress” rehearsal. Now, that test is being re-launched, with an all-important countdown scheduled for Thursday, Ars Technica reports.

NASA has been working with SLS for over a decade. The goal of the project was to build a launch vehicle that could lift heavy payloads and transport them farther into the solar system. It is also at the heart of NASA’s plan to return to the moon. With an initial launch in 2016, development was originally supposed to cost $ 18 billion It has been delayed at least 16 times, and cost more than $ 21 billion between 2011 and 2021.

A wet dress completely involves fueling the vehicle and running the countdown if you are going to launch the rocket. However, NASA will cancel the countdown in T-10 seconds. There have been about 25 “critical incidents” before, which gave NASA insight into how well SLS is working. However, this is not the same wet dress that NASA had hoped to wear.

In early April, the agency called off the test due to problems with the launch tower. Last week, NASA filled almost halfway with liquid oxygen before leaving a manual vent valve in the wrong position. And then it marks a stuck check valve at the top level. Due to the valve problem in the upper stage, known as the cryogenic propulsion stage, NASA will avoid giving fuel to this part of the vehicle. Fortunately, only two of these critical events are connected at the top level. The above stage was completed four years ago by the United Launch Alliance, far ahead of most cars. However, NASA does not believe that the delay is to blame because the valve lasts for 20 years or more.

Thus, NASA feels confident that it can only proceed with wet clothing after refueling at the original stage. It plans to begin that process on Tuesday evening (April 12), the third time it has pumped fuel into the SLS. It is not clear if NASA will conduct a second wet dress exercise with fuel at both stages, but any additional delays will likely push back the latest June 2022 launch window. When it launches, Artemis 1 will send a crewless Orion capsule around the moon and back to Earth. The Artemis mission will not be cheap. NASA estimates 2 billion per launch, but an official report says the actual cost is probably closer to $ 4 billion. Both are far more than SpaceX expects to spend on starship launches in the next few years. Many thanks to the SLS for being an expensive vehicle — you get one launch and then you have to build another.

NASA has set up an ambitious timeline for Artemis 1 to Artemis 5, beyond which more missions are possible. In just a few days, we’ll have a better idea of ​​whether NASA should be late again.

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