NASA’s lunar rocket test is delayed due to refueling errors

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s dress rehearsal for its Mega-Moon rocket is on hold until at least this weekend because of two technical issues that have consistently delayed a refueling test.

Launch managers twice attempted — once on Sunday and again on Monday — to load nearly 1 million gallons of fuel into the 322-foot rocket known as the Space Launch System, or SLS. Restive fans at the launch pad thwarted the first attempt, while a stuck valve halted the second attempt.

The countdown test is the final major milestone before the rocket’s long-awaited launch debut. The Orion crew’s capsule on the rocket is ejected to the moon in a test flight with no passengers, making a loop but not landing before returning to Earth. NASA is targeting June depending on how the demo goes.

“We didn’t achieve everything we wanted, but we certainly learned a lot that we will incorporate into our next attempt,” said NASA’s Jim Free, who is responsible for developing exploration systems.

Speaking Tuesday at the Space Foundation’s annual conference in Colorado Springs, Free said the launch team will wait until SpaceX takes four private passengers to the International Space Station before making another attempt at the refueling test. Launch is scheduled for Friday from Kennedy Space Center, barely a mile from the platform where the SLS rocket is located.

In this NASA handout photo, NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen at sunrise on a mobile launch vehicle at Launch Complex 39B on April 4, 2022.
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft is seen atop a mobile launch vehicle at Launch Complex 39B at sunrise on April 4, 2022.

The dress rehearsal started on Friday and should have lasted only two days. A severe thunderstorm resulted in four lightning strikes on the pad on Saturday, but officials didn’t believe it caused any of the technical problems.

After this first moon shot in NASA’s Artemis program, NASA will send a crew around the moon in 2024 and then attempt the first moon landing by astronauts around 2025. Astronauts last walked on the moon in 1972 during NASA’s Apollo program. NASA’s lunar rocket test is delayed due to refueling errors


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