NASA has changed dates for launch opportunities for Artemis I, the first integrated flight test of the Space Launch System rocket, and the Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon.
Under the new schedule, the agency will perform the fuel-loading cryogenic demonstration test on the rocket no earlier than Wednesday, September 21, and has updated its request for a launch opportunity on September 27, with a possible reservation opportunity on September 2. October under review. After the postponements of August 29 and September 3 due to a leak of liquid hydrogen, a cryogenic test had initially been signed up for on September 17 and a launch on September 23, which are now ruled out.
According to NASA, the updated dates represent careful consideration of multiple logistical issues, including the added value of having more time to prepare for the cryogenic demonstration test and, subsequently, more time to prepare for launch. The dates also allow managers to ensure crews get adequate rest and replenish supplies of cryogenic propellants.
Over the weekend, Artemis I crews completed repair work in the area of a hydrogen leak, reconnecting the rocket-side and ground plates at the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line quick disconnect where two seals were replaced last week. This week, teams will test in ambient conditions to ensure there is a tight bond between the two plates before retesting during the cryogenic tank demonstration and beginning preparations for testing.
During the demonstration, launch controllers will load supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into the SLS rocket’s cryogenic propulsion core stage and intermediate stage. The demonstration will allow teams to confirm that the hydrogen leak has been repaired, evaluate updated propellant loading procedures designed to reduce thermal and pressure-related stress on the system, perform a fast start purge test, and evaluate procedures pre-pressurization. On September 27, the 70-minute launch window opens at 16:37 UTC; landing the round-trip mission to lunar orbit on November 5. If it occurs on October 2, the 109-minute launch window opens at 19:52 UTC, landing on November 11.