NASA continues to closely monitor the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian while conducting final preparations to allow for rolling back the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building.
Managers met Sunday evening to review the latest information on the storm from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center and decided to meet again Monday to allow for additional data gathering overnight before making the decision on roll back. NASA continues to prioritize its people while protecting the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft system.
NASA continues to closely monitor the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian as preparations for rolling back the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building continue. The agency is making incremental decisions that prioritize the agency’s people and hardware and its process is in accordance with established NASA policies for tropical storms and hurricanes.
The latest information provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center indicates a slower moving and potentially more westerly track of the storm than yesterday’s predictions showed, providing more time for the agency’s decision making process and for employees to prioritize their families should the storm impact the Kennedy Space Center area.
NASA managers will meet this evening to evaluate whether to roll back or remain at the launch pad to preserve an opportunity for a launch attempt on Oct. 2. The exact time of a potential rollback will depend on future weather predictions throughout the day and could occur Monday or very early Tuesday morning.
NASA is foregoing a launch opportunity Tuesday, Sept. 27, and preparing for rollback, while continuing to watch the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian. During a meeting Saturday morning, teams decided to stand down on preparing for the Tuesday launch date to allow them to configure systems for rolling back the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Engineers deferred a final decision about the roll to Sunday, Sept. 25, to allow for additional data gathering and analysis. If Artemis I managers elect to roll back, it would begin late Sunday night or early Monday morning.
The agency is taking a step-wise approach to its decision making process to allow the agency to protect its employees by completing a safe roll in time for them to address the needs of their families while also protecting for the option to press ahead with another launch opportunity in the current window if weather predictions improve. NASA continues to rely on the most up to date information provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center.
Launch controllers have completed the pre-pressurization test, obtaining pressure and temperature level readings as desired. Controllers are continuing with the procedures for today’s test, gathering additional data.
Launch controllers have reached the replenish phase of liquid hydrogen loading operations for the interim cryogenic propulsion stage of the Space Launch System rocket and are continuing operations to load liquid oxygen into the upper stage. Teams are moving into operations to conduct a pre-pressurization test, in which engineers will bring the core stage liquid hydrogen tank up to the pressure level it will experience just before launch while engineers calibrate the settings for conditioning the engines at a higher flow rate, as will be done during the terminal count on launch day. The pre-pressurization test is expected to last about an hour.
The Space Launch System’s core stage liquid hydrogen tank is now full and is being replenished as some of the supercold propellant boils off. Since resuming liquid hydrogen fast fill operations, the rate of the hydrogen leak at the tail service mast umbilical quick disconnect has remained within allowable rates. The core stage liquid oxygen tank also is in the replenish phase.
Teams are pressing ahead with operations to load propellants into the interim cryogenic propulsion stage of the rocket. Once liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen loading on the stage reach the replenish phase, the pre-press test, one of the objectives for today’s demonstration, will occur.
The pre-pressurization test will bring the core stage liquid hydrogen tank up to the pressure level it will experience just before launch while engineers calibrate the settings for conditioning the engines at a higher flow rate, as will be done during the terminal count on launch day.
Launch controllers have detected a hydrogen leak in a cavity in the tail service mast umbilical and have stopped flowing the propellant to the rocket while they troubleshoot the issue. Engineers will warm up the quick disconnect, or interface where the fuel feed line connects to the rocket, to attempt to reseat it.
After chilling the lines for liquid oxygen (LOX), teams have begun the slow fill phase to load LOX into the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage and have started chilling down the transfer line for the liquid hydrogen (LH2). Once LOX slow fill is complete, teams will transition to fast fill operations. Once the LH2 chilldown operations are complete, slow fill of liquid hydrogen will begin.
Follow along with live coverage and with the countdown milestones for the cryogenic demonstration test ahead of the Artemis I mission.
Artemis Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson has given the “go” to officially begin loading propellants into the Space Launch System rocket as part of today’s Artemis I cryogenic demonstration test. Weather remains favorable for the test.
Tanking operations will begin with chilldown of the core stage liquid oxygen transfer line.
NASA TV coverage is underway.
NASA has adjusted the targeted dates for a cryogenic demonstration test and to the next launch opportunities for Artemis I, the first integrated flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon. The agency will conduct the demonstration test no earlier than Wednesday, Sept. 21, and has updated its request for a launch opportunity Sept. 27, with a potential backup opportunity of Oct. 2 under review.
The updated dates represent careful consideration of multiple logistical topics, including the additional value of having more time to prepare for the cryogenic demonstration test, and subsequently more time to prepare for the launch. The dates also allow managers to ensure teams have enough rest and to replenish supplies of cryogenic propellants.
NASA and SpaceX also continue to target no earlier than 12:45 p.m. EDT Monday, Oct. 3, for the launch of the agency’s Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station. Teams are working the upcoming commercial crew launch in parallel to the Artemis I planning and both launch schedules will continue to be assessed over the coming weeks. NASA and SpaceX will review the Artemis I and Crew-5 prelaunch processing milestones to understand any potential impacts. The agency’s Crew-4 return will continue to be planned following a short handover on the space station with Crew-5.
Over the weekend, Artemis I teams completed repair work to the area of a hydrogen leak, reconnecting the ground- and rocket-side plates on the quick disconnect for the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line where two seals were replaced last week. This week, teams will conduct tests at ambient conditions to ensure there is a tight bond between the two plates before testing again during the cryogenic tanking demonstration, and begin preparations for the test. During the demonstration, launch controllers will load supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into the core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage of the SLS rocket. The demonstration will allow teams to confirm the hydrogen leak has been repaired, evaluate updated propellant loading procedures designed to reduce thermal and pressure-related stress on the system, conduct a kick-start bleed test, and evaluate pre-pressurization procedures.
NASA is continuing to respect the Eastern Range’s process for review of the agency’s request for an extension of the current testing requirement for the flight termination system and is providing additional information and data as needed. In parallel, the agency is continuing preparations for the cryogenic demonstration test and potential launch opportunities, should the request be approved.
Specific times for the potential launch opportunities are as follows:
- Sept 27: 70-minute launch window opens at 11:37 a.m. EDT; landing on Nov. 5
- Under review – Oct. 2: 109-minute launch window opens at 2:52 p.m.; landing on Nov. 11