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Scrubbed! Monday's Artemis 1 launch called off due to engine troubles

Tuesday, August 30th 2022, 6:15 am - The next launch window for this historic mission opens on Friday!

We are going to have to wait just a little bit longer for our return to the Moon.

NASA's Artemis 1 mission was scheduled to blast off into space on Monday morning, on its way to a historic new mission to the Moon. The rocket's launch window was set to open at 8:33 a.m. EDT. However, one minute past that time, launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson called for the attempt to be scrubbed.

Artemis 1 Monday scrubbed NASANASA's Space Launch System rocket stands poised to carry the Orion spacecraft on a round-trip flight to the Moon. At 8:34 a.m. EDT, the launch was scrubbed due to technical issues. Credit: NASA TV

According to NASA: *"The launch director halted today's Artemis I launch attempt at approximately 8:34 a.m. EDT. The Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft remain in a safe and stable configuration. Launch controllers were continuing to evaluate why a bleed test to get the RS-25 engines on the bottom of the core stage to the proper temperature range for liftoff was not successful, and ran out of time in the two-hour launch window. Engineers are continuing to gather additional data."*

Read More: NASA's Artemis 1 stands ready for its flight to the Moon

What Happened?

During pre-launch operations, when the rocket was going through the final stages of fueling, engineers were performing what is known as a 'bleed'. The process increases the pressure in the fuel tanks, thus pushing some of the cryogenically cooled fuel into the engines. This is necessary to condition the engines — to cool them down to a temperature where it's safe to ignite them for launch.

Artemis-1-SLS-Static-Fire-Test-NASAThis close up view of the SLS main engines shows them during a static fire test on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Credit: NASA TV

Roughly two hours before the launch window opened, as they were performing this bleed, the launch team noticed that one of the four RS-25 engines — specifically engine 3 — was not cooling down like the others.

They also identified another potential problem due to what appeared to be a crack in the thermal protection material surrounding a connecting joint in the fuel system.

As their investigation into the issue continued, the team called for a hold on the launch at T-40 minutes. This hold remained until they reached the 8:33 a.m. launch window. At that time, it was decided that there was insufficient time to troubleshoot the issue, and the launch attempt was cancelled.

"This is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all those things have to work," NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a post-scrub statement. "You don't want to light the candle until it's ready to go."

Nelson also noted that he endured 4 scrubbed launches, on the pad, before his trip into space back on Jan. 12, 1986. Prior to that flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia taking off, it suffered a total of 7 delays due to various issues, including technical problems and bad weather. Four of those aborted attempts occurred with Nelson and the rest of the STS-61-C flight crew in the shuttle and just minutes or seconds left in the countdown to launch.

What's Next?

With Monday's launch attempt scrubbed, the first backup launch window for the mission opens on Friday, Sep. 2, at 12:48 p.m. EDT. At the moment, NASA will plan for a second attempt at that time.

Orion-Artemis-1-NASAArtemis 1 stands ready to launch after its Aug. 17, 2022 rollout to Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39B. Credit: NASA

As the engineers continue to assess the issues, they are expected to provide an update later today. This may clear the mission to make another attempt on Friday, or it could delay the launch until a later date.

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