On Saturday, ground crews at Kennedy Space Center prepared for a second attempt to launch NASA’s massive, next-generation moon rocket on its first voyage, in the hopes that the engineering issues that prevented the first countdown five days earlier had been fixed.
50 years after the last Apollo lunar mission, NASA’s ambitious moon-to-Mars programme Artemis was scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:17 p.m. EDT (1817 GMT) with the 32-story-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion capsule.
When the previous launch attempt on Monday failed due to technical difficulties, the countdown was stopped and the unmanned flight was postponed.
According to Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin, two other significant problems with the rocket itself, including a broken engine temperature sensor and some cracks in insulation foam, have been fixed to NASA’s satisfaction.
Another element that NASA cannot control is the weather. According to the U.S. Space Force at Cape Canaveral, the most recent prognosis indicated a 70% possibility of acceptable weather during Saturday’s two-hour launch window.
NASA might organise a new launch attempt for Monday or Tuesday in the event that the countdown clock was stopped once more.
The SLS rocket and the Orion capsule, which were made as part of NASA contracts with Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., respectively, made their first flights on the mission known as Artemis I.
One of the main goals of the mission is to test the heat shield’s resilience as Orion returns to Earth from the moon at 24,500 mph (39,429 km/h), or 32 times the speed of sound, which is substantially faster than the more typical re-entry of spacecraft from Earth orbit.
The heat shield is made to endure friction from re-entry, which should cause the outside of the capsule to heat up to over 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 Celsius).
The development process has been delayed and beyond budget for more than ten years.
Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity have been created as a result of the programme, according to NASA’s defence.