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After several test failures, NASA's massive SLS rocket returns to the garage

After several test failures, NASA’s massive SLS rocket returns to the garage

The US space agency has made the decision to shorten the testing period for the SLS, its latest launcher model, and return it to its garage. The missile should undergo repairs there.

Trials Space Launch System (SLS)NASA’s XXL rocket Which is supposed to allow the Artemis missions to return astronauts to the moonIt doesn’t go exactly as planned. tests that It has already been postponed once due to technical issueson April 12 and 14, 2022. NASA teams had to test a critical step: liquid fuel getting to the rocket, a step called “ wet rehearsal “.

However, new problems prevented NASA from completing this step. And the US space agency announced on April 17 It has made the decision to return the SLS to its building. A long process can delay the task.

SLS launcher should return to undergo repairs // Source: NASA

Problems during the test

Many improvements need to be made outside the launch base, and NASA will take this opportunity to bring back the SLS and [la capsule] Orion in the Vehicle Assembly Building [son bâtiment d’assemblage] The US space agency announced on April 17 on its website. NASA also said it will replace a defective valve in the second stage of the SLS. It will also fix leaks in the refueling boxes at the foot of the rocket, and NASA has indicated that it will do so.” see the table » Fuel gas loading test operations.

The decision was made in the last three operations wet rehearsal It was hampered by technical problems. The magazine Ars Technica explain it Complications occurred at the level of the mobile launch tower, the ground equipment responsible for providing the propellant gases, and the rocket itself. ” In the most recent tests conducted on April 14, NASA was able to charge a tank of liquid oxygen at 49% and a liquid hydrogen tank at 5%. says the newspaper.

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Deciding to return the SLS to its assembly building is no small feat. The SLS is really huge: the height of the rocket is 98 meters without an Orion capsule, and its height is almost 2,500 tons. So moving such a behemoth is challenging and could take some time: Ars Technica estimates that it would take a week to prepare the SLS and roll it to the assembly building. Once the missile arrives, it can stay.” In the warehouse » Throughout the month of May.

After several test failures, NASA's massive SLS rocket returns to the garage
The SLS missile will be used in Artemis missions // Source: NASA

SLS will be used in the Artemis mission

For now, however, NASA has not provided further details on the impact of these repairs on the mission’s launch schedule. The SLS is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2022. At the moment, the latter has not officially been postponed, but if technical problems for NASA persist, the SLS may not launch in May, as was expected.

The SLS Journey is part of Artemis’ mission: it’s this mission Allowing astronauts to return to the moon – So the operator is of paramount importance. However, the return of humans to Earth’s natural satellite was not immediately planned: the first mission of the SLS will be an unmanned flight.

The SLS should take off with the Orion capsule at the top and it should sail around the moon to make sure everything goes smoothly. The next mission, Artémis 2, is scheduled for 2024, and should follow the same path, but this time with a crew on board. Artemis 3, expected in 2025, will have to drop astronauts on the Moon.

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NASA