NASA has once again delayed the final test of its next-generation Space Launch System. The agency spent much of last weekend conducting a “wet dress rehearsal” of its upcoming Artemis 1 Moon mission. The test was designed to replicate the mission’s countdown procedure and was mostly moving along according to plan until NASA encountered a problem with the SLS’s mobile launcher platform.
The issue prevented the agency from safely loading the rocket with liquid propellant, and NASA delayed the critical test to troubleshoot the problem. It had initially planned to resume the test on April 9th to accommodate Axiom’s Space historic Ax-1 flight but announced today it was further delaying the trial to the start of next week. It also announced it would modify the test after engineers noticed a problem with a helium check valve designed to prevent the gas from escaping the SLS. The modified test will see NASA primarily focus on fueling the rocket’s core stage, with “minimal propellant operations” of its upper stage.
“Due to the changes in loading procedures required for the modified test, wet dress rehearsal testing is slated to resume with call to stations on Tuesday, April 12th and tanking on Thursday, April 14th,” NASA said.
Once the test is complete, NASA can finally move forward with Artemis 1. The mission will send an unmanned Orion capsule on a flight around the Moon designed to study how the trip will affect human astronauts. The agency won’t set a date for the mission until it completes the wet dress rehearsal. If it doesn’t encounter any further setbacks this week, Artemis 1 could lift off as early as this June.