Today, NASA suspended the last major test of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket after pressure problems prevented engineers from safely loading propellants into the rocket. The test — known as a wet dress rehearsal — has been postponed until Monday, April 4 at the earliest, NASA announced in a post on the Artemis I live blog.
“Teams have decided to cancel tank operations for the wet dress rehearsal due to the loss of the ability to pressurize the mobile launcher,” explains NASA. Some fans on the mobile launcher – the platform that supports the rocket until launch – were unable to maintain positive pressure, which is crucial in fending off dangerous gases. As a result, NASA engineers were unable to “safely proceed” with the fuel loading process.
For safety, we have stopped using the #Artemis I wet dress rehearsal. The teams are now meeting to assess the next steps. We consider Monday 4 April as the next opportunity to resume operations and will hold a media briefing later today. Check here for updates. https://t.co/pweviGRjwg
— NASA (@NASA) Apr 3, 2022
This type of dress rehearsal gets its “wet” label because it’s essentially a run-through of all the procedures NASA will have to perform when SLS’s first actual launch occurs, including filling the 322-foot rocket with 700,000 gallons of propellant. In a news conference on Sunday night, NASA said the team is currently on the launch pad to solve the problem. The agency says it is on track to resume the wet dress rehearsal tomorrow.
The test originally began April 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and was set to end on Sunday. NASA ran into some rough weather Saturday night when lightning struck the towers surrounding the SLS launch pad. Jeremy Parsons, deputy program manager at NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems, said one of these attacks was one of the strongest NASA has seen since the lightning protection system was installed. “It hit the overhead wire that runs between the 3 towers,” Parsons wrote in a tweet from the EGS Twitter account. “System performed extremely well and kept SLS and Orion safe.”
The SLS should carry the Orion spacecraft on an unmanned mission around the moon as part of the Artemis program, a flight dubbed Artemis I. That mission, tentatively scheduled for this summer, should have the rocket — and NASA — ready. for the mission that will eventually take humans to the lunar surface.
You can keep checking for updates on the test on NASA’s live blog, as well as the Twitter†