PostNASA’s Space Launch System moon rocket finally managed to pass a countdown and power supply test at a dress rehearsal on Monday, but another hydrogen leak caused problems that need to be addressed before the huge amplifier can be cleared for its long-awaited flight.
NASA executives have been keeping open the possibility of a launch in late August, but it is not yet known if the latest problem could affect these plans. Even so, the test met almost all of NASA’s goals by verifying that the rocket’s sophisticated software, hardware, and precise timing processes would work together as planned during a real launch.
“This is a wonderful day for our team,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the first woman to serve as a launch director for a large rocket system. “Really proud to work on the loading work and work with the number of terminals. Definitely a good day for us and a very exciting day as well.”
Theshortened by various problems, including a leaking hydrogen supply line connector. In all three cases, the countdown was stopped long before the fuel loading was completed and long before the “terminal” phase began, the last 10 minutes.
By repairing a leaking fuel line connector, engineers on Monday successfully loaded three-quarters of a million gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen fuel into the two stages of the SLS rocket, despite another hydrogen leak in a quick-release component.
After a five-hour delay in dealing with the problem, the mission managers approved a plan to “mask” the measurements of the sensors that would otherwise lead to cancellation, in fact hiding the leak from the launch control computer system.
The team originally planned to count down to T-minus 33 seconds and then recycle again in 10 minutes to demonstrate the ability to handle an unplanned grip on a true launch countdown. From there, the countdown would continue until the T-minus 9.3 seconds, just before the main engine start series for a real launch.
But with the countdown delayed by hours due to a hydrogen leak, Blackwell-Thompson and the launch control team chose to skip the 33-second run and go straight to the T-minus 9.3 seconds.
Coming out of an extended “hold” at the T-point minus 10 minutes, the countdown smoothly marked its final minutes, passing one mile after another without any problems.
However, at T-minus 29 seconds, four seconds after the countdown was delivered to the SLS missile’s built-in computer, a cut-off command was issued and the countdown stopped, presumably because the leak was detected somewhere in the computer system.
While they could not achieve all their goals, the SLS team came very, very close. Blackwell-Thompson said fully loading the two stages of the rocket with propulsion and “steady refill” mode for the first time was an important step forward.
“We’ve done it many times in a simulation, but we haven’t done it cryogenically in the vehicle,” she said, referring to the rocket’s extremely cold propulsion. “And so today, we have all the stages to replace, that was a big milestone for us.
“And then our team really wanted to get into the terminal count and work through those milestones and see how we did, how the team did and how they did the material. They both did very well.”
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. It is not yet known if a late summer launch is still possible.
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