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NASA Calls Off Artemis 1 Moon Rocket Launch Over Engine Cooling Issue

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An engine cooling issue on NASA’s giant new rocket for deep-space exploration forced the agency to call off the booster’s much-anticipated launch debut early Monday (Aug. 29).

NASA had mostly fueled its first Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket to launch the Artemis 1 moon mission on Monday when launch controllers were unable to chill one of the four main engines to the temperatures needed to handle its super-cold propellant.

The issue stalled plans to launch the SLS rocket and its uncrewed Orion spacecraft on an ambitious 42-day test flight around the moon. Liftoff was scheduled for 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT).

Chilling the SLS rocket’s engines before flowing cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen through them is a required step before the rocket can launch, NASA officials said. While three of the engines passed that test, Engine No. 3 did not, despite troubleshooting efforts.

“Launch controllers condition the engines by increasing pressure on the core stage tanks to bleed some of the cryogenic propellant to the engines to get them to the proper temperature range to start them,” NASA officials said in a statement. “Engine 3 is not properly being conditioned through the bleed process, and engineers are troubleshooting.”

All four of these engines flew on NASA’s space shuttle program of reusable vehicles.

According to NASA spokesperson Derrol Nail, the engine conditioning was not something that the team was able to verify during the “wet dress rehearsal” process that concluded in June.

“This is something they wanted to test during Wet Dress 4 but were unable to,” Nail said. “So this was the first opportunity for the team to see this live in action. It’s a particularly tricky issue even going in to get that temperature dialed in, according to engineers.”

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