NASA has completed a critical repair of its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. On Friday, engineers replaced the leaking seal that forced the agency to scuttle its most recent attempt to launch Artemis 1. On September 3, a connection in one of the SLS’s fuel lines began leaking hydrogen. The Kennedy Space Center ground crew attempted to fix the problem three times, but the leak persisted, forcing NASA to cancel the launch attempt. On Friday, engineers also replaced the seal on a 4-inch hydrogen “bleed line” that was responsible for a smaller leak during an earlier launch attempt on August 29.
With the new gaskets in place, NASA plans to conduct a fuel test to verify that they work as intended. In the test, engineers will try to load the SLS with the 736,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen it would need during a regular flight. NASA hopes to successfully complete that test on September 17. “This demonstration will allow engineers to verify the new seals in cryogenic or super-cold conditions, as expected on launch day and before proceeding to the next launch attempt,” the agency said.
On Thursday, NASA Announced it was targeting September 23 for another attempt to put Artemis 1 into space, with September 27 as a backup. Whether it can make it to those dates will depend on next week’s fuel test and a decision by the US Space Force. Flight regulations require NASA to test Artemis 1’s flight termination system battery every 20 days. That’s something you can only do inside the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building. The Space Force previously granted the agency a 20-day deadline extension. NASA has now asked for another exemption.
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