After failing to complete a maiden attempt last month, Nasa will re-test its massive Moon rocket.
In April, engineers returned the Space Launch System (SLS) to the garage for repairs to a defective helium check valve and the cause of a hydrogen leak.
The rocket and the Orion spacecraft had been moved out to a launch pad in Florida for fueling and a practise launch countdown, a procedure known as a wet dress rehearsal.
The world’s most powerful rocket, however, was returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building for repairs after three failed tries.
While the rocket made some progress during the test, it was not fully fuelled or pressurised, and the countdown sequence that allows engineers to measure key data was not completed.
On June 6, the SLS will be returned to Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad, with another test attempt scheduled for June 19.
Nasa stated on its website that “engineers successfully completed work on problems found during the previous wet dress rehearsal tests, including repairing and testing an upper stage check valve and patching a tiny leak within the tail service mast umbilical ground plate housing.”
“After wet dress rehearsal, teams also accomplished some tasks that were initially slated to take place in the Vehicle Assembly Building.”
Nasa wants to fly the rocket as part of the Artemis 1 mission after the test.
The mission will be the first under the Artemis programme, which aims to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon and land the first man, woman, and person of colour on its surface.
The test flight was supposed to happen this summer, but it will most likely happen later this year because the wet dress rehearsal isn’t finished yet.
“The rehearsal is the final test before launch,” Nasa explained. “It requires Nasa to test the system, including operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, execute a full launch countdown, and demonstrate the capacity to recycle the countdown clock.”
The tanks will also be drained to allow scientists to practise the timings and processes that will be used during launch, according to the US space agency.
The SLS will launch with 3,991 tonnes of thrust and travel to orbit at a speed of 40,233 kilometres per hour in about eight minutes. It will place Orion in its proper orbit, from whence it will begin its voyage to the Moon.
The spacecraft will fly 100 kilometres above the Moon’s surface before being captured into an opposite orbit some 70,000 kilometres away using its gravitational attraction.
It will spend around six days there collecting data and allowing mission control to assess the spacecraft’s performance.