Head to CNN for live coverage from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday afternoon. Space correspondent Kristin Fisher will provide us with detailed information about the launch, along with a team of experts.
The launch window opens at 2:17 p.m. ET and closes at 4:17 p.m. ET on Saturday. Weather conditions are currently 60% favorable during the launch window, according to weather officer Melody Lovin. She doesn’t expect the weather to be an “opener” for the launch.
The Artemis I stack, which includes the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft, continues on Launchpad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
While there’s no guarantee of a Saturday launch, “we’re going to try it,” Mike Sarafin, manager of the Artemis mission, said during a news conference Thursday night. And while the launch team will take a little more risk heading into the launch attempt, those are acceptable risks that the team is comfortable with, Sarafin said. The Artemis I mission is unmanned.
One of the areas where the team is taking more risks is with the conditioning of the #3 engine, which contributed to the slowdown on Monday’s launch attempt. Another is a crack in the core stage intermediate tank foam that could rupture and hit part of the solid rocket propellant, but the team thinks the chances of that are very low, Sarafin said.
It’s “a marginal increase in risk,” Sarafin said, but “we’re clearly ready to fly.”
“We had a plan for the launch attempt on August 29. It used the sensors to help confirm proper thermal conditioning of the engines. We had trained on that plan and then we ran into other problems,” Sarafin said.
“We were off script in terms of normal tank operation, and the team did a fantastic job of working on handling a dangerous condition. One of the worst things you can do when you’re in a dangerous condition is just go even harder.” off script.”
After reviewing the data, the team has a plan to move forward.
Work has been completed on the launch pad to address two separate hydrogen leaks that occurred on Monday. The team also completed a risk assessment of the engine conditioning issue and a crack in the foam that also surfaced, according to NASA officials.
On Monday, a sensor on one of the rocket’s four RS-25 engines, identified as engine #3, showed that the engine was unable to reach the proper temperature range required for the engine to start at liftoff.
The engines must be thermally conditioned before super-cold propellant flows through them prior to takeoff. To prevent the engines from experiencing sudden temperature changes, launch controllers increase the pressure of the core stage liquid hydrogen tank to deliver a small amount of liquid hydrogen to the engines. This is known as “bleeding.”
Now the team has determined that it was a bad sensor that provided the reading.
“We had time to go back and look at the data and compare many data sources and do an independent analysis that confirmed it’s a faulty sensor,” said John Honeycutt, SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Alabama. “We are getting good quality propellant through the engine.”
On launch day, the team will ignore the faulty sensor, said John Blevins, chief engineer at SLS.
The rocket’s automated launch sequencer checks temperature, pressure, and other parameters. The faulty sensor, which is not part of the sequencer, is not considered a flight instrument, Blevins said.
The team plans to start the bleeding earlier in the countdown than it did on Monday. The countdown to launch will begin on Saturday at 4:37 am ET during a planned wait. That is all when mission managers receive weather information and decide whether the team should proceed with loading propellant into the rocket. The bleeding is expected to occur around 8 a.m. ET, said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch manager for NASA’s Earth Systems Exploration Program.
A two-day countdown, as during the first launch attempt, is no longer necessary “because many of the configurations necessary for launch are already in place,” according to NASA.
“We have to show up, we have to be ready and we have to see what the day brings,” Sarafin said.
If the mission launches on Saturday, it will make a trip around the moon and splash down in the Pacific Ocean on October 11.
There is still a backup opportunity for the Artemis I mission to launch on September 5 as well.
The Artemis I mission is just the beginning of a program that will aim to return humans to the moon and eventually land manned missions on Mars.
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