- Fuel leak nearly called off Monday’s test at Kennedy Space Center
- The launch director said he proceeded to “see how the team fared”
- Engineers wanted to go all the way down to the 9-second mark – just a few minutes away from the engine firing
NASA fueled its giant Moon rocket for the first time on Monday and went ahead with a crucial countdown test despite a fuel line leak.
It was NASA’s fourth crack at the all-important dress rehearsal, the last major milestone before the start of the long-awaited launch of the Moon rocket.
Previous attempts in April were thwarted by a fuel leak, as well as stuck valves and other technical issues.
Another leak — this time in an external fuel line — nearly shut down Monday’s test run at Kennedy Space Center. But NASA managers decided to do the countdown test anyway.
Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said he went ahead to see “how the team fared, how the hardware fared, and they both performed very well.”
Engineers wanted to go all the way down to the 9-second mark—minus the engine firing—in order to validate all systems and procedures. But it got cut in 29 seconds.
NASA spokesman Darrol Nell said it was not immediately known why the countdown stopped.
Previously, about 1 million gallons of super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen were loaded into a 322-foot (98-meter) rocket known as the Space Launch System, or SLS.
Delays in testing have pushed the actual launch – with an empty Orion capsule flying around the Moon – until late August at the earliest. This test flight is crucial before the astronauts ascend.
Blackwell-Thompson said it was too early to say what NASA’s next step might be.
The second SLS flight, planned for 2024, will send a crew around and behind the Moon. The third mission – no earlier than 2025 – will see astronauts actually land on the Moon.
Astronauts last walked on the moon in 1972 during NASA’s Apollo program.
The new program is named Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology.
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