Look to CNN for live coverage from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday afternoon. Space correspondent Kristin Fisher will bring us instant reports from the launch, along with a team of experts.
Kennedy Space Center, Florida
The uncrewed Artemis I mission is struggling with resupply issues as it prepares for a second chance to embark on a historic journey around the moon
Shortly before 5 a.m. ET, the mission leaders received a weather briefing and decided to proceed with loading propellant into the rocket. The countdown resumed at 7:07 a.m. ET.
There was at least a 30-minute delay after a liquid hydrogen leak was detected at 7:15 a.m. ET in the quick-disconnect cavity that feeds the rocket hydrogen into the core stage engine section. This was a different leak than what happened before Monday’s clean launch.
Launch controllers warmed up the line in an attempt to achieve a tight seal and the flow of liquid hydrogen resumed before a leak happens again. They stopped the flow of liquid hydrogen, “closed the valve used to fill and drain it, then increase the pressure on a ground transfer line using helium to try to close it”, according to NASA.
This recovery plan was unsuccessful, and now the team is evaluating a third plan.
The launch window opens at 2:17 p.m. ET and closes at 4:17 p.m. ET on Saturday. NASA live coverage has begun 5:45 a.m. ET on its website and TV channel.
This process has put the team behind, but it’s unclear how much of a delay this will cause in the countdown, as they may be able to catch up a bit later.
Meanwhile, liquid oxygen continues to slowly flow through the center stage. Both propellants must be filled in certain proportions relative to each other.
There is a 60% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch, with chances increasing to 80% favorable towards the end of the window, according to weather officer Melody Lovin.
The Artemis I stack, which includes the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft, sits on Launchpad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The Artemis I mission is just the start of a program that will aim to bring humans back to the Moon and eventually land crewed missions on Mars.
If the mission launches on Saturday, it will travel around the moon and crash into the Pacific Ocean on October 11. There is still a launch opportunity for the Artemis I mission on September 5 as well.
Over the past few days, the launch team has taken the time to address issues, such as hydrogen leaks, that surfaced ahead of Monday’s scheduled launch before it was cleaned up. The team also performed a risk assessment of an engine conditioning issue and a foam crack that also popped up, according to NASA officials.
Both are considered acceptable risks before the launch countdown, according to Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission manager.
On Monday, a sensor on one of the rocket’s four RS-25 engines, identified as Engine No. 3, indicated that the engine could not reach the proper temperature range required for the engine to start on liftoff.
Engines must be thermally conditioned before super cold propellant passes through them prior to liftoff. To prevent the engines from experiencing temperature shocks, the launch controllers gradually increase the pressure of the central stage liquid hydrogen tank in the hours before launch to send a small amount of liquid hydrogen to the engines. This is called “bleeding”.
The team has since determined it was a bad sensor providing the reading – they plan to ignore the faulty sensor in the future, according to Space Launch Systems chief engineer John Blevins.
The bleeding, which is expected to occur around 8 a.m. ET, is currently on hold.
After the launch of Artemis I, Orion’s journey will last 37 days as he travels to the moon, loops around it and returns to Earth – traveling a total of 1.3 million miles (2, 1 million km).
Although the passenger list does not include any humans, it does have passengers: three mannequins and a stuffed Snoopy toy will ride Orion.
The crew aboard Artemis I may seem a bit unusual, but they each have a purpose. Snoopy will serve as a weightlessness indicator, meaning he will begin floating inside the capsule once it reaches the space environment.
The dummies, named Commander Moonikin Campos, Helga and Zohar, will measure the deep space radiation that future crews might experience and test new armor suits and technologies. A biological experiment carrying seeds, algae, fungi and yeasts is also hidden inside Orion to also measure the reaction of life to this radiation.
Other science experiments and technology demonstrations are also ring-mounted on the rocket. From there, 10 small satellites, called CubeSats, will detach and separate to collect information about the moon and the deep space environment.
Cameras inside and outside Orion will share images and video throughout the mission, including live views from the Callisto Experience, which will capture a feed of Commander Moonikin Campos seated in the commander’s seat. And if you have an Amazon Alexa-enabled device, you can ask it for the mission’s location every day.
Expect to see views of Earthrise similar to what was first shared during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968, but with much better cameras and technology.
The inaugural mission of the Artemis program will launch a phase of NASA space exploration that aims to land diverse crews of astronauts in previously unexplored regions of the moon – on the Artemis II and Artemis III missions, scheduled for 2024 and 2025 respectively – and ultimately deliver crewed missions to Mars.