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NASA’s Artemis I launch rescheduled after first attempt was scrapped

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After a thwarted attempt earlier this week, NASA will attempt to launch its next-generation megarocket on a test flight to the moon on Saturday, agency officials announced Tuesday.

The debut flight of NASA’s unmanned Space Launch System (SLS) rocket was scheduled to take place Monday, but the launch was called off after engineers encountered a temperature problem with one of the booster’s core stage motors while the rocket was being charged with propellant.

Mission manager Mike Sarafin said in a news briefing on Tuesday that teams have been investigating the issue at the launch pad and that the agency will be ready to retry the test flight, known as Artemis I, this weekend.

NASA is now targeting a two-hour launch window on Saturday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, starting at 2:17 p.m. EDT.

The weather could be a concern this weekend, with showers and possible thunderstorms moving over Kennedy Space Center, said Mark Burger, the launch weather officer with the US Space Force.

Burger said there is currently a 60% chance of a weather violation, but added there will likely be clear conditions at points during the two-hour launch window.

“Showers tend to have quite a bit of real estate in between, so I still think weather-wise we have a good chance of starting on Saturday,” he said in a press conference on Tuesday.

If the test flight, known as Artemis I, is canceled due to weather, NASA officials said they could try again on September 5.

John Honeycutt, manager of the Space Launch System Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said the problem may have been a faulty sensor on the rocket, but added changes will be made to the fueling process on Saturday.

During Monday’s launch attempt, a liquid hydrogen pipe used to cool the rocket’s core stage engines malfunctioned halfway through the launch countdown. The SLS’s engines must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures prior to launch to avoid shocking the system with ultra-cold fuel when ignited.

Sarafin said the teams will start cooling the engine earlier on Saturday during the launch countdown, which could help the systems reach the desired temperature before takeoff.

The weather could be a concern this weekend, with showers and possible thunderstorms moving over Kennedy Space Center, said Mark Burger, the launch weather officer with the US Space Force.

Burger said there is currently a 60% chance of a weather violation, but added there will likely be clear conditions at points during the two-hour launch window.

“Showers tend to have quite a bit of real estate in between, so I still think weather-wise we have a good chance of starting on Saturday,” he said in a press conference on Tuesday.

If the test flight is canceled due to weather, NASA officials said they could try again on September 5.

The unmanned test flight is a six-week journey in orbit around the moon. The expedition is designed to test both NASA’s massive SLS rocket and Orion capsule before the agency sends astronauts back to the lunar surface.

NASA’s return to the moon program, Artemis, is named after the goddess of Greek mythology who was the twin sister of Apollo. As part of the Artemis program, NASA foresees regular missions to the moon to establish a base camp on the lunar surface, before finally venturing to Mars.

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