AP

NASA fuels moon rocket in test, hit again with pesky leaks

Sep 20, 2022, 6:44 PM | Updated: Sep 22, 2022, 10:11 am

The NASA moon rocket for the Artemis mission stands on Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesda...

The NASA moon rocket for the Artemis mission stands on Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. A hydrogen leak was detected on the rocket during a tanking test this morning. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s new moon rocket sprouted more fuel leaks Wednesday in a test ahead of a possible launch attempt next week, but engineers managed to get them down to acceptable levels.

There was no immediate decision on whether NASA would try for a liftoff Tuesday given the sporadic nature of the hydrogen leaks, which have bedeviled the launch team for months.

Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson wouldn’t commit to a launch attempt date, although she said the test went well.

“We’ll go take a look at the data,” she said. “I’d like the team to have an opportunity to look at that before I speculate.”

The daylong demo had barely begun when hazardous hydrogen fuel began escaping at the same place and same time as before, despite new seals and other repairs. Engineers halted the flow and warmed the lines in hopes of plugging the leak, and proceeded with the test. But the leak persisted before dropping to acceptable levels. Hours later, another leak cropped up elsewhere, before tapering down.

Blackwell-Thompson said all test objectives were met. But managers need to review the results before determining whether the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket is ready for its first test flight, a lunar-orbiting mission with mannequins instead of astronauts.

Hydrogen leaks spoiled the first two launch attempts, as well as earlier countdown tests. So much hydrogen escaped during the countdown earlier this month that it exceeded NASA’s limit by more than double. Wednesday’s leak almost got that big again.

After hours of fits and starts, NASA finally managed to load nearly 1 million gallons (4 million liters) of fuel into the rocket.

Following the Sept. 3 launch delay, NASA replaced two seals in the leaky line. One seal had a tiny indentation; it measured a mere one-hundredth of an inch.

“Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but again we’re dealing with hydrogen,” the smallest element on the periodic table, said mission manager Mike Sarafin.

NASA also altered the fueling process, easing slowly into the loading of the super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen. After Wednesday’s big leak appeared, the launch team moved even more slowly to subject the plumbing to even less stress.

In a separate matter, NASA still needs the U.S. Space Force to extend the certification of on-board batteries that are part of the flight safety system before another launch attempt.

Once launched, the crew capsule atop the rocket will be the first to orbit the moon in 50 years. The $4.1 billion mission should last more than five weeks, ending with a splashdown in the Pacific. Astronauts would climb aboard for the second test flight, dashing around the moon in 2024. The third mission, targeted for 2025, would see a pair of astronauts actually landing on the moon.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The engines and boosters are carryovers from the now retired space shuttles. Just like now, NASA struggled with elusive hydrogen leaks during the shuttle era, especially during the early 1990s.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

2 days ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

3 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

4 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

4 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

5 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

6 days ago

NASA fuels moon rocket in test, hit again with pesky leaks