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NASA Is Now Aiming for Sept. 3 Launch of Artemis Mission Rocket

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- NASA will try again to launch the space agency’s massive new moon rocket on Sept. 3, five days after the initial effort was scrubbed.

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Officials of the space agency confirmed the new Saturday target date in a press briefing Tuesday. Teams will meet again on Sept. 1 to assess their progress.

NASA on Monday delayed the debut launch of the new rocket due to an issue with one of its engines and a separate problem with a tank vent valve on the main rocket, dealing a temporary blow to the space agency’s plan to return to the lunar surface.

“We agreed on what was called option one, which was to operationally change the loading procedure and start our engine chill down earlier,” Artemis Mission Manager Michael Sarafin said at the briefing. “We also agreed to do some work at the pad to address the leak that we saw.”

NASA is targeting a two-hour launch window starting at about 2:17 p.m. Eastern time, though the agency sees the potential for showers and thunderstorms during the morning and early afternoon. There’s a 60% chance weather conditions will exceed acceptable limits.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll have at least some clear air to work with during the afternoon to jump on Saturday,” said Mark Burger, the launch weather officer.

First Major Flight

A key issue has involved the temperature reading on the third of four engines on the main rocket, agency officials said. An apparently faulty sensor indicated that the engine temperature wasn’t low enough, but subsequent testing found that it likely had been properly chilled, they said.

“Replacing the sensor at the launch pad would be tricky,” said John Honeycutt, manager of the SLS program, adding that NASA planned to leave it in place.

The Artemis mission will be the first major flight in NASA’s ambitious plan to send the first woman and the first person of color to the lunar surface as early as 2025. Artemis I is aimed at testing out the Space Launch System core rocket, made by Boeing Co., and a new deep-space crew capsule called Orion that was developed by Lockheed Martin Corp.

When Artemis I does launch, SLS will be sending an uncrewed Orion on a multiweek mission, along with a host of payloads and sensors to track the journey.

The capsule will insert itself into lunar orbit and enter deep space before returning to Earth and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego. NASA plans to stress test the systems ahead of later crewed missions.

NASA officials said that if the launch attempt this weekend is called off that they expect to be able to try again as soon as 48 hours later.

(Updates with comment from weather officer in sixth paragraph.)

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