After two attempts aborted due to technical problems, NASA announced Thursday (September 8) that it could try to launch its new mega-rocket to the moon on September 23 or 27.
This long-awaited flight of the Artemis-1 mission, unmanned on board, will have to test in real conditions the SLS rocket (for Space Launch System) and the Orion capsule at its summit, where the astronauts will be held in the future.
The possible shooting window on September 23 will begin at 6:47 local time (12:47 Paris time), while that of 27 will open at 11:37 local time (17:37 Paris time), said Jim Free, a senior official. of the American space agency, during a press conference. These dates were chosen to avoid a conflict with NASA’s DART mission, whose spacecraft is to hit an asteroid on September 26 in an attempt to deflect it from its trajectory. Both missions must use an international antenna network called the Deep Space Network.
The dates considered by the space agency will depend, however, on a special exemption NASA will need to obtain to avoid retesting the batteries on an emergency rocket destruction system if it goes off course to a populated area.
If the agency does not receive this waiver, the rocket will have to return to the assembly building, which would delay the program by several weeks. The launch is highly symbolic, because it must embody the future of NASA in the face of the ambitions of China or SpaceX in particular.
The NASA-scheduled rocket takeoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida was canceled at the last minute Saturday for the second time in a week, a setback that pushes back the actual launch of the US return to the moon program, Artemis.
A fuel leak problem was detected early in the morning while the rocket tank was being refilled. Mike Bolger, a NASA official, told the news conference that the agency was working to replace the seals to repair the leak of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen. The orange and white SLS rocket, which has never flown before, has been in development for over a decade to become the most powerful in the world.
Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, Artemis-1 should make it possible to verify that the Orion capsule, at the top of the rocket, is safe for transporting astronauts to the moon in the future. For this first mission, Orion will venture up to 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft to date.
The main objective is to test its heat shield, the largest ever built. Upon its return to the Earth’s atmosphere, it will have to withstand a speed of 40,000 km / h and a temperature that is half that of the Sun’s surface.