Technicians also found the upper stage valve to be defective, and at a third attempt, last Thursday, the test was modified to fill only the fuel tanks during the booster stage. But then a hydrogen leak was detected in the so-called secret tail service shaft connected to the bottom of the rocket, and the test was investigated. The oxygen tank was not half full and the hydrogen supply had just begun.
Last week, NASA officials said they hoped to repair the hydrogen leak while the rocket was still on the launch pad. But on Monday, they said they had changed their minds. Next week, the rocket will be returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where technicians will have easy access to the rocket parts. This allows the faulty upper stage valve to be replaced.
At the same time, an external supplier that supplies nitrogen gas – which is used to clean hazardous gases – is upgrading its systems. In two practice tests, disturbances in nitrogen intake delayed the countdown.
“The huge lunar rocket is doing really well,” Tom Whitmaier, NASA’s deputy director of joint research systems development, said at a news conference Monday. “I think we got pretty smart with this missile. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
The Space Launch System, a key part of NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts to the Moon, is years behind schedule and has a budget of $ 1 billion. Due to recent problems, Whitmaier said getting the missile ready for launch in two weeks in early June would be a challenge. Additional options are available for two weeks from the end of June and the end of July.