Artemis 1 moon rocket nears launch: How to watch live

The rocket was being gassed with nearly 1 million gallons of super-cold hydrogen and oxygen when the final leak occurred.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A new leak emerged as NASA on Tuesday refueled its New Moon rocket for a launch in the middle of the night, its third attempt to fly an empty capsule around the moon for the first time in 50 years.

Fuel leaks plagued the first two attempts in late summer, then two hurricanes caused further delays. While engineers never pinpointed the cause of the leaking hydrogen, they modified the refueling process to minimize leaks and expressed confidence that all piping in the 98-meter rocket would remain tight and intact.

NASA added an hour to the operation to accommodate the slower fill-up, which is critical to reducing pressure on the fuel lines and keeping the seals in place. It appeared to be working, but towards the end of the six-hour operation an intermittent hydrogen leak occurred and the launch team considered sending workers to the pad — a so-called red team — to tighten a valve while the countdown continued. The valve is part of the launch platform, not the rocket, officials stressed.

The rocket was gassed with nearly 1 million gallons (3.7 million liters) of supercold hydrogen and oxygen when the last leak occurred.

NASA expected 15,000 to line up at the Kennedy Space Center for launch in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and thousands more lined the beaches and streets outside the gates. The space agency had two hours to lift the rocket before it landed until Saturday.

The debut of Space Launch System rocketknown as SLS, had three test dummies but no astronauts in the crew capsule at the top that NASA planned to take to lunar orbit.

This first test flight was to last three weeks and end with a splashdown in the Pacific. NASA’s top priority for the $4.1 billion mission is to check the capsule’s heat shield during reentry so four astronauts can buckle up for the next moon shot in 2024. This would be followed by a moon landing for two in 2025.

The space agency plans to send astronauts around the moon in 2024 and land a crew on the lunar surface in 2025.

Astronauts last visited the moon in December 1972, ending the Apollo program.


The two-hour launch window opens on Wednesday, November 15 at 1:04 am EST. Artemis 1 moon rocket nears launch: How to watch live

Laura Coffey

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