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NASA’s lunar rocket test met 90% of targets – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

NASA’s fourth attempt to complete a critical test of its lunar rocket achieved about 90 percent of its goals, but there’s still no firm date for the behemoth’s first flight, officials said Tuesday.

Known as the “wet dress rehearsal” because it involves loading liquid fuel, it’s the final item to tick off the checklist ahead of this summer’s Artemis-1 mission: an unmanned lunar flight that will eventually be followed by lunar boots Bottom, probably no earlier than 2026.

Teams at the Kennedy Space Center began their latest effort Saturday to complete the exercise.

Their objectives were to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, perform a launch countdown and simulate emergency scenarios, and then empty the tanks.

Three previous offerings, beginning in March, were plagued by failures and failed to fuel the rocket with hundreds of thousands of gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

On Monday, the engineers finally managed to fully load the tanks. But they also encountered a new hydrogen leak problem that they couldn’t solve.

“I would say we’re in the 90th percentile in terms of where we need to be overall,” Artemis Mission Manager Mike Sarafin told reporters Tuesday.

He added NASA is still deciding whether it needs another sample or can proceed directly with the launch. The agency previously said an August window for Artemis-1 is possible.

NASA officials have repeatedly emphasized that delays in testing new systems were common during the Apollo and space shuttle eras and the issues affecting SLS are not of major concern.

With the Orion crew capsule at the top, the Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1 is 322 feet (98 meters) tall — taller than the Statue of Liberty but slightly smaller than the 363-foot Saturn V rockets that power the Apollo missions to the moon.

It will produce 8.8 million pounds of maximum thrust (39.1 meganewtons), 15 percent more than the Saturn V, meaning it is expected to be the world’s most powerful rocket when it goes into service.

Artemis-1 is scheduled to fly around the far side of the moon on a test flight sometime this summer.

Artemis-2 will be the first manned test to fly around the moon but not land, while Artemis-3 will see the first woman and first colored person land on the moon’s south pole.

NASA wants to establish a permanent presence on the moon and use it as a testing ground for technologies needed for a Mars mission sometime in the 2030s.

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