NASA fuels a lunar rocket for the first time in a countdown rehearsal

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AFP) – NASA fueled its massive lunar rocket for the first time Monday and continued an important countdown test despite a fuel line leak.

This was NASA’s fourth crack at the all-important rehearsal, and the last major milestone before the long-awaited lunar rocket launch.

Previous attempts in April were thwarted by fuel leaks, as well as valve failures and other technical issues.

Another leak — this time in an external fuel line — nearly cut short Monday’s test at the Kennedy Space Center. But NASA administrators decided to run the countdown test anyway.


Launch Director, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, said they went ahead to see “how the team was doing, how the hardware was doing, both of which worked very well.”

The engineers wanted to hit the 9-second mark – just before the engine was fired – to validate all systems and procedures. But it snapped at 29 seconds. NASA spokesman Derol Nile said it was not immediately known why the countdown had stopped.

Earlier, nearly one million gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen and oxygen were loaded into the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket known as the Space Launch System, or SLS.

Test delays pushed the actual launch — with an empty Orion capsule flying around the moon and back — to the end of August at the earliest. This test flight is crucial before the astronauts get on board.

Blackwell Thompson said it’s too early to say what NASA’s next step is.

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SLS’ second flight, planned for 2024, will send a crew around the moon and back. The third mission – no later than 2025 – would have already landed on the Moon.

The last time astronauts walked on the Moon was in 1972 during NASA’s Apollo program. The new program is called Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology.

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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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