According to foreign media CNET, NASA hopes to send American astronauts back to the moon as soon as possible. The agency's goal is to launch an unmanned Artemis I mission around the moon later in 2021, but first it needs a functioning lunar rocket.The agency is preparing a second attempt at a key thermal test of its space launch system.
In mid January, the first heat test of the space launch system (SLS) rocket did not go as planned, because the rocket was supposed to test for eight minutes, but it shut down unexpectedly in just over a minute. In late January, NASA announced plans for a second heat test, which is scheduled for Thursday, February 25, but has now been delayed.
NASA announced on Monday that it was "reviewing the performance of a valve on the rocket core stage of the space launch system before conducting a second heat test.". Engineers found that the valve - part of the system that supplies liquid oxygen to the engine - was not working properly. The SLS team will troubleshoot the problem, but that means testing will have to be later than expected.
The heat test is the last part of a series of "preliminary commissioning" tests to check the core level of SLS before it actually leaves earth. NASA calls the core stage "the backbone of the SLS rocket.".
The purpose of the thermal test is to simulate the harsh launch conditions. Although the SLS core was shut down safely during testing at the Stannis Space Center in Mississippi, it was shut down too early. "After analyzing the preliminary data, the team determined that the shutdown 67.2 seconds after ignition of the engine on January 16 was triggered by test parameters that were deliberately conservative to ensure core level safety during the test," NASA said in a January 19 statement. The agency will try to make it eight minutes during the second test.
NASA reported that the core stage, its engines and test bed are in "good condition" and do not require major maintenance until the next attempt.