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Artemis I: NASA's SLS moon rocket passes key fuel test for possible launch next week

By Jonna Lorenz
American flags wave in the breeze after a second launch attempt was scrubbed for the Artemis 1 mission on Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on September 3, 2022. NASA plans to try again in the coming weeks. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 22 (UPI) -- NASA's first Artemis mission, which will pave the way for humans to return to the moon, appears to be on track for another launch attempt next week after it passed a key test.

The Artemis I mission made its first launch attempt on Aug. 29 and the second on Sept. 3. Both attempts were scrubbed due to malfunctions related to one of the engines and the rocket's fuel system.

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Engineers have been working to fix the fuel leak since the second failed test. NASA said the massive SLS rocket passed a key fueling test on Wednesday and is on track for a possible Sept. 27 launch attempt.

"All objectives have been met for the cryogenic demonstration test, and teams are now proceeding with critical safing activities and preparations for draining the rocket's tanks," the space agency said in a blog post.

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"After encountering a hydrogen leak early in the loading process, engineers were able to troubleshoot the issue and proceed with the planned activities."

If successful, the next launch attempt for Artemis I will send the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft on a near 500,000-mile trip to the moon and back. The mission is unmanned.

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Artemis I aims to send the Orion capsule into lunar orbit to test systems and prepare for astronauts to return to the lunar surface for the first time in 50 years. Artemis I will also be the first flight for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket.

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Wednesday's test included assessing the repair to the hydrogen leak and testing new procedures to load propellants into the rocket's tanks. It also conducted an engine bleed "kick-start" and pre-pressurization test.

"All of the objectives that we set out to do we were able to accomplish today," Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said according to Space.com.

Workers solved a leak on Wednesday that began early in the loading process by warming up the quick disconnect. They were also able to control a smaller leak during the pre-pressurization test.

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Data from Wednesday's test will be used to evaluate whether the rocket is ready to launch next week.

If Artemis I is successful, Artemis II will take a crew of three astronauts around the moon sometime in 2024 -- and Artemis III will be the anticipated return to the lunar surface sometime in 2025. NASA has said that the program is still on track for the 2025 timeline.

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NASA's biggest rocket, SLS, gets ready for moon mission

For protection from the effects of Hurricane Ian, NASA's SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft roll back to the Vehicle Assembly Building from Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on September 27, 2022. The booster and spacecraft will ride out the storm inside the facility where NASA Engineers will prepare the vehicle for the maiden launch of the Artemis Program sometime from late October to mid November. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

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