NASA is considering a second firing of its lunar rocket engines after a critical test was halted over the weekend, a move that could blow the first flight of Artemis’s moon landing program in the coming year.
The space agency had a goal to launch its new space launch system, or SLS, rocket and an empty Orion capsule by the end of this year, with the capsule flying to the moon and back as a prelude to missions from the crew. But that date could be in jeopardy after Saturday’s interrupted test.
All four engines fired for just one minute, instead of the expected eight minutes, on the test bed at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The countdown to the 65-meter (212-foot) main stage – made by Boeing – included tanks of liquid hydrogen and oxygen, as well as all necessary computers and electronics.
On Tuesday, NASA attributed the automatic shutdown to stringent testing limits intended to protect the main stage so it can be used on the first Artemis flight. One engine’s hydraulic system exceeded safety parameters, officials said, and flight computers shut everything off for 67 seconds after powering on.
Two other engine related problems also occurred.
NASA said it can adjust the test limits if a second test is deemed necessary, to avoid another premature arrest. Engineers will continue to analyze the data before deciding on the next step.
The Artemis program is working to bring astronauts back to the moon by 2024, a deadline set by the Trump administration. It is unclear how the incoming White House will approach that timeline.
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- One engine’s hydraulic system exceeded safety parameters, officials said, and the flight computers shut everything off for 67 seconds after powering on. Two other engine-related problems also occurred. to avoid another premature arrest.
- The aborted rocket test could stop NASA’s lunar firing, possible to repeat