Fuel leak delays NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission launch

NASA called off the second attempt to launch an ambitious test flight of its new moon rocket on Saturday (Sept. 3), this time because of a stubborn leak that delayed fueling. 

The space agency hoped to launch its Artemis 1 moon mission atop a towering Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket at 2:17 p.m. EDT (1817 GMT) on Saturday, but a hydrogen fuel leak detected about seven hours before liftoff thwarted the attempt.

"We have a scrub for the day, a cutoff, of the launch attempt for Artemis 1," NASA commentator Derrol Nail said at 11:18 a.m. EDT (1518 GMT) during a live broadcast.

NASA engineers repeatedly tried to staunch the fuel leak during the Artemis 1 countdown. First, they tried to warm the tank connector and chill it with cold fuel to stem the leak. Next, engineers tried to repressurize it with helium, and then returned to the warm-and-chill method to stop the leak. All three attempts failed.

The delay, the second this week for NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission, means the agency will have to wait until Monday (Sept. 5) at the earliest to make its next launch attempt. And that's if the source of the leak can be fixed in time.

NASA has a 90-minute window to launch Artemis 1 on Monday, with liftoff occurring at 5:12 p.m. EDT (2212 GMT).

Artemis 1 is NASA's first test flight of the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon by 2025. This mission is an uncrewed test of the Space Launch System, NASA's most powerful rocket ever, and its Orion spacecraft to make sure both vehicles are safe for astronauts.

Once launched, Artemis 1 will spend just over a month flying to the moon, looping Earth's natural satellite in a long orbit, and then returning to our planet for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

If NASA doesn't try to launch on Monday, it could try on Tuesday (Sept. 6), but the launch window is slim, just 24 minutes. A Tuesday launch, if attempted, would occur at 6:57 p.m. EDT (2257 GMT), NASA has said.

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