But the NASA teams failed to solve a fuel leak problem, which started in the early morning, during the filling operations of the rocket tanks. This leak of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen was described as “big” by Mike Sarafin, in charge of the mission at NASA.
The “primary suspect”, he explained, is a “seal” that surrounds a piece that connects the pipe through which the fuel passes and the rocket — a component designed to break off ultra-quickly just as the rocket is fired. lift-off.
The teams think they have to replace this seal, either on the launch pad directly, or by bringing the rocket back to its assembly building, a few kilometers away.
This work thus no longer made it possible to take off by Tuesday, when the current possible launch period ended, due to the positions of the Earth and the Moon.
– Possibly weeks late –
Another problem: the rocket’s emergency self-destruct system, designed to detonate it in the event of a deviating trajectory after takeoff, must a priori be tested again, and can only be tested in the assembly building. .
However, bringing the rocket in and taking it out will take “weeks”, said Mike Sarafin.
The next possible periods for a launch are from September 19 to October 4, then from October 17 to 31.
Mr. Sarafin felt that it was still “too early” to completely rule out the end of September, and promised a progress report next week.
NASA said that the period of early October would be complicated to coordinate, because of the planned takeoff at the same time of a crew of astronauts for the International Space Station, also from the Kennedy Space Center.
Be that as it may, the tens of thousands of spectators who were expected on the coast on Saturday for take-off will therefore still have to wait to watch the show.
The orange and white SLS rocket, which has never flown before, has been in development for more than a decade to become the most powerful in the world.
Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, Artemis 1 should make it possible to verify that the Orion capsule, at the top of the rocket, is safe to transport astronauts to the Moon in the future.