Cape Canaveral, Fla. ( Associated Press) — NASA’s dress rehearsal for its Mega Moon rocket is on hold until at least this weekend due to a pair of technical problems that were preventing a fueling test.
Launch managers tried twice – once on Sunday and again on Monday – to load about 1 million gallons of fuel into the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket known as the Space Launch System, or SLS. Balky fans on the launch pad thwarted the first attempt, while a stuck valve prevented the second attempt.
The countdown test is the last major milestone before the start of the rocket’s long-awaited launch. The Orion crew capsule atop the rocket will be thrown to the Moon in a passenger-less test flight, which will spin around but not land before returning to Earth. Depending on how the demo goes, NASA is targeting June.
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“We didn’t get through what we wanted, but we certainly learned a lot that we’ll take on our next attempt,” said NASA’s Jim Free, who is in charge of exploration systems development.
Speaking Tuesday at the Space Foundation’s annual conference in Colorado Springs, Frey said the launch team will wait until SpaceX launches four private passengers to the International Space Station before taking another crack at fuel testing. Liftoff is scheduled for Friday from Kennedy Space Center, barely a mile from the pad that holds the SLS rocket.
The dress rehearsals started on Friday and should have lasted only two days. On Saturday, the pad was struck by lightning four times due to a strong thunderstorm, but officials did not believe it caused a technical problem.
Following this first moon landing in NASA’s Artemis program, NASA will send a crew around the moon in 2024 and then attempt the first lunar landing by astronauts in 2025. Astronauts last walked on the moon in 1972 during NASA’s Apollo program.