Miami, Sep 3 (EFE).- After being forced to scrub two planned launches in less than a week, NASA said Saturday that the uncrewed Artemis I lunar mission will not lift off until late this month at the earliest.
“We will not be launching in this launch period,” Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, told a news conference. “We are not where we wanted to be.”
The current launch period ends next Tuesday and the next does not begin until late September. NASA suggested that the Artemis I launch may be delayed until the second half of October.
“We’re not going to launch until it’s right,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Saturday. “We don’t go until then, and we make sure it’s right before we put humans up on the top of it.”
“I look at this as part of our space program, in which safety is the top of the list,” the former senator said, hours after NASA announced that Artemis I would not lift off as scheduled at 2:17 pm (18:17 GMT) Saturday.
Tens of thousands of people had gathered near Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to witness the launch.
“Teams encountered a liquid hydrogen leak while loading the propellant into the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket,” NASA said. “Multiple troubleshooting efforts to address the area of the leak by reseating a seal in the quick disconnect where liquid hydrogen is fed into the rocket did not fix the issue.”
The leak in the SLS rocket that will carry the Orion capsule into space is a different problem from the one that caused the launch planned for last Monday to be scrubbed.
Artemis I is the first lunar mission mounted by the United States since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The mission plan calls for the Orion spacecraft to complete the 1.3 million mile roundtrip to the moon in just under 38 days before splashing down in the Pacific off the coast of California.
Artemis I will also deploy 10 small satellites, called CubeSats, tasked with collecting information on the moon and the deep space environment.
The crewed Artemis II and Artemis III lunar missions are set for 2024 and 2025, respectively, as part of an ambitious program aimed at sending humans to Mars. EFE ar/dr