With the Artemis I launch from Kennedy Space Center, America takes its first steps in returning humans to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. The Orlando Sentinel will provide live updates of as the final countdown to the launch begins and through the powerful SLS rocket and Orion capsule reaching orbit.
Artemis’ two-hour launch window opens at 8:33 a.m. on Monday. Follow our updates below:
The launch director has asked the liquid hydrogen team to come up with next steps to troubleshoot a new problem with the RS-25 engines at the base of the core stage that arose late Monday morning.
NASA’s regular hosted broadcast that was going to start at 6:30 a.m. was put on hold as it continues to try and work through the engine issue.
For every big event, there are always souvenirs to be sold, and the Artemis launch is no exception.
A NASA souvenir stand in the Kennedy Space Center media complex has had lines of 20-plus people continuously since 5 a.m.
What can you get to commemorate the historic Artemis I launch?
There are assorted Artemis T-shirts for $20, tank tops for $18, patches for $7 and NASA “I need my space” bumper stickers for $2. Also being offered are mission coins, hats and Frisbee-like discs with space-age flair.
If you’re not close to a souvenir stand in person, you can visit NASA’s online story at https://www.shopnasa.com/collections/orion
The hydrogen engine bleed flow test that was not able to have been performed during the wet dress rehearsals is good in three of four engines, One, though, is still giving issues during a test in which pressures are increased to flight levels.
Teams will close the flow to help the engines all warm up a little, then reopen the hydrogen flow in the hopes that the temperature drops on the problem engine to where NASA needs it to be.
Meanwhile, teams have reported a crack in an inner tank flange. Cameras on it show a frost buildup and vapor trail. It’s being evaluated, but will need more discussion.
NASA assistant launch director Jeremy Graeber said the delay from weather at midnight as well as the potential liquid hydrogen leak during its first attempt at fast filling the core stage has meant a likely new T-0 time during the two-hour launch window.
“Right now we’re working through — we’ve got quite a bit of work left from now until we get down to our T-10 minute hold, that’s a 30-minute hold at T-10 minutes,” he said. “We’re going to continue to press forward with all of the work that’s ahead of us as we move into that hold. We will look at all the work, determine where we stand and then we will establish a new T-0 at that time. As I’ve said we’ve got a lot of work to get to that point. We will evaluate when we get there.
“Our team is doing a really great job looking at different ways to optimize and find the right path to ensuring that we preserve as much window as we possibly can. So at this point, it’s better to just wait and see where we get to and make that evaluation when we get to that T-10 minute hold.”
Speaking about how the core stage delay was worked through, Graeber said the apparent leak did not persist as it moved to 100% filling of the 733,000 combined gallons of both liquid oxygen and hydrogen.
“We have not had an increase in that leak throughout the rest of the fill, and now that we’re in core stage replenish, we’re in really great shape,” he said. “So the team did a fantastic job working through that problem and getting us past it, and now we’re moving forward.”
NASA will get its first look of a repair on a liquid hydrogen bleed line quick disconnect that was required when it failed because of a leak during the last wet dress rehearsal. This has to work in order for the launch to move forward, as NASA was not able to complete it as part of the dress rehearsal.
Meanwhile, teams have the OK to begin filling the upper stage with liquid oxygen while maintaining the core stage at 100%.
Among the thousands of people on the Space Coast waiting to see the Artemis I launch are passengers on five cruise ships that are in nearby Port Canaveral.
However, those on at least one of the ships won’t get to see the launch while onboard.
A passenger on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas posted on Facebook, “They’re forcing everyone off the ship between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. due to traffic in the area.”
Independence is returning from a weekend cruise to the Bahamas, and the early departure time didn’t go over well with some.
“From my balcony I have a clear line of sight to the pad, on purpose, we picked it hoping the launch is a go,” the Independence passenger posted. “I am a HUGE NASA spaceflight geek. Now they’re forcing us off … NOT HAPPY RC!!!”
In addition to Independence of the Seas, the other cruise ships at Port Canaveral on launch day are Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, Carnival’s Freedom and Liberty and Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wish.
NASA teams have moved past filling the 537,000 gallons of cryogenic liquid hydrogen and 196,000 gallons of cryogenic liquid oxygen with 2 hours and 46 minutes on the countdown clock, and are now in “topping” mode to keep it at 100%.
Jetty Park is open and filling quickly. Traffic is bumper to bumper.
Joe Mario Pedersen
With 75% of the core stage liquid hydrogen and 86% of its liquid oxygen tanks full, NASA officials have given teams the green light to begin upper stage tanking.
Dozens of cars lined up in front of Jetty Park at Port Canaveral about 90 minutes before the park’s opening at 5 a.m. Traffic on State Road 528 was relatively clear as of 4:15 a.m.
Joe Mario Pedersen
Fast-fill of liquid hydrogen was able to resume after 4 a.m. while liquid oxygen levels continued.
By 4:20 a.m., 68% of the planned 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen had been filled while 30% of the 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen had been filled.
“Chugging along,” said Derrol Nail with NASA communications. “We’re a little behind on the timeline due to a weather issue early on … that put us a little bit behind, and then the potential hydrogen leak also put us a little behind, but we’ve got a two hour window, which is the good news. The team will more closely evaluate the T-0 as we get closer to terminal count, which is t-10 minutes.”
Teams were able to resume slow fill operations of liquid hydrogen and were at 7% full as liquid oxygen has moved to 55%. NASA will try and switch the liquid hydrogen to a fast-fill operation, which is about 10 times faster than the slow fill, and see if the the previously detected leak was fixed.
The delay in tanking could threaten the launch attempt during its two-hour window.
NASA teams detected a leak of liquid hydrogen during the tanking of the SLS core stage that caused them to shut it down twice.
The initial detection of a leak happened when the slow fill of the liquid hydrogen moved to fast fill, which caused teams to shut down. A second attempt resulted in a pressure alarm going off as well, so it was shut down again.
Meanwhile, the fast fill of liquid oxygen continued but was approaching 50% completion, which is an issue as NASA has a constraint in which it can’t have more than 50% liquid oxygen if there’s not at least 5% liquid hydrogen.
The area of the leak is in the same location as was encountered during the first wet dress rehearsal in April.
The plan now is to manually chill the hydrogen line down, which got too warm during the stop flow. After it’s chilled, the team will restart its slow fill valve and see if it can get back up and running.
Orlando Sentinel managing editor Roger Simmons encountered a massive traffic backup on State Road 405 about seven miles away from Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex by 3 a.m. Traffic had not moved more than 6 feet in 30 minutes.
With 7% of liquid hydrogen filled, NASA officials stopped its loading while continuing to fast fill the liquid oxygen at 30%.
As they were getting into fast fill of the liquid hydrogen, they were seeing a leak, so they halted the fast fill, and the team is assessing the issue.
Despite more than an hour delay in the loading of propellants to the core and upper stage of the Space Launch System rocket, there’s been no move to push the T-0 launch time of 8:33 a.m. As of 2:45 a.m., 14% of the planned 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen had already been filled during the 2-4 hour process, already in what’s known as the fast-fill process. A slow fill of liquid hydrogen had also begun, but had yet to get to 5% of the 537,000 gallons heading into the 212-foot-tall core stage that will provide 2.2 million pounds of thrust through to the four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines at the base, all four converted from the space shuttle era.
Those engines provide only 25% of the total SLS rocket’s thrust as the two solid rocket boosters made by Northrop Grumman give the majority of the 8.8 million pounds of thrust on liftoff.
Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson with the OK from the Space Launch Delta 45 weather officer has given teams the go to begin loading of the cryogenic fuel for the Space Launch System rocket. The 2 1/2 pre-planned hold meanwhile that began before midnight ended at 1:23 a.m. The next hold will come at T-10 minutes for 30 minutes before the final terminal countdown to launch.
Lightning from a passing storm cell had delayed the beginning of the cryo load of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen until 1:13 a.m. It had been slated to begin at midnight.
“So a little bit of a delay, but now we’re moving forward. The launch team had been configuring their systems that were not related to cryo loading and they were sitting on the edge of ready so once the go came forward and the weather constraint was lifted, the team fired up the pumps and we are prechilling the lines,” said Derrol Nail with NASA communications.
Rain began falling around 12:30 a.m., but the rain does not preclude the fueling. The lightning risk, though, had exceeded the 20% chance within 5 miles of the pad during that first hour, which brought on the hold.
There’s a chance the T-0 time may shift because of the fueling delay, but NASA has a two-hour window, so the launch opportunity could push beyond the opening at 8:33 a.m.
Blackwell-Thompson allowed part of the tanking process to move forward, but delayed any flow of the super chilled liquid oxygen and hydrogen because of a storm cell offshore with lightning. She said she would allow preparations for it to come in, but wants to wait to see if the cell will move within the range that would constitute a weather restraint on tanking.
The launch weather officer for Space Launch Delta 45 reported that the upstream cells of some storms offshore moving in the general direction of KSC have developed more and include lightning. The forecast of the cell moving about 15 mph could be on site within the first hour of tanking and therefore weather is violating the constraints in place, so the tanking operations remain on hold. SLD 45 will continue monitoring to see if the cell weakens.
The constraint requires less than a 20% chance of lightning within 5 miles of the launch pad within the first hour of tanking.
The Mission Management Team has give the “go” to proceed with fueling the Space Launch System rocket with less than nine hours before the beginning of the planned launch window.
The tanks have been previously filled with gaseous nitrogen, but that will now be usurped as teams fill up the core stage with 730,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. First comes liquid oxygen followed by liquid hydrogen about an hour and half later. Once that’s full, the upper stage gets filled.
NASA began commentary for the tanking on their YouTube channel.
“The launch team has been doing their pre-cryo loading operations,” said Derrol Nail with NASA communications. “They are substantially complete looking on target to get started here.”
There was a communication issue with the Orion capsule, he said, that included an 11-minute delay from ground systems to the capsule that is an issue that would need to be resolved before the countdown reaches T-10, also known as terminal count. The launch team has good communications now, but in setting it up the delay was found, and they’re working to find out why that happened.
“Quite plainly we wouldn’t start terminal count until that’s resolved, but they have time to work it and they are doing that right now,” Nail said. “Engineers feel good about getting this figured out.”
The issue does not preclude tanking issues, though, and Blackwell-Thompson had been expected to give the OK to begin tanking soon, but had one constraint expected to clear soon involving material on the tail service mast umbilical.
Weather is looking “fairly good,” Nail said with a 40% chance of rain off shore from midnight to 1 a.m., a 30% chance from 1-2 a.m. and then 20% down from 2-4 a.m. and a 20% chance of lightning throughout that run.
An updated timeline from tanking through launch as well as post-launch mission plans can be see on our Artemis I mission timeline.
The planned liftoff of the Space Launch System rocket with its 8.8 million pounds of thrust will be a highlight of the launch year on the Space Coast, which has been the busiest ever.
So far this year, between Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, there have been 37 launches with 12 from KSC and 25 from Canaveral.
SpaceX has made all 12 of the KSC launches so far including two with human passengers — the private Axiom 1 flight and NASA Crew 4 flight aboard Crew Dragons to the International Space Station. SpaceX has had another 18 of its launches from Canaveral with another five coming from United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rockets and two from small rocket company Astra Space.
SpaceX has several more Starlink satellite launches on tap from both launch pads through the end of the year, but also the upcoming Crew 5 flight from KSC no earlier than Oct. 3.
Also expected this year from Canaveral will be Relativity Space’s first-ever launch of its 3-D printed Terran 1 rocket.
With all battery charging and powering up done on Orion and the Space Launch System having been signed off on the previous 24 hours, the next big step is to get the rocket ready to fill it up with 730,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
To do that, NASA will fill up the tanks and lines with gaseous nitrogen, which “inerts” the tanks meaning they won’t accidentally catch on fire. That will start around 9:45 p.m.
The pad was cleared at 8:30 p.m. of personnel ahead of the preps. The countdown clock has a 2 1/2 built in hold (at T-6 hours, 40 minutes) that will begin at 10:53 p.m.
As far as tanking, the core stage comes first with a flow of liquid oxygen followed by liquid hydrogen about an hour and half later. Once that’s full, the upper stage gets filled.
After the core stage has been filled, NASA can perform one test that teams were not able to accomplish during the wet dress rehearsals earlier this year. Referred to as a “hydrogen kickstart,” it’s a way NASA can thermally condition the engines, but it has yet to be signed off on because it was designed for the end of the test in June, but a leak in a hydrogen bleed line was detected.
“We believe that we have taken all the actions to correct that problem,” said Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson earlier this week, but Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said that if it doesn’t work, then the rocket won’t fly.
Calling it a “pre-press test,” Jeff Spaulding, Artemis I senior NASA test director said during a Sunday morning press conference it would happen around 5:40 a.m.
“It’s a test that actually we do in the terminal part of count. We’re just going to do it a little early just to get to evaluate the data there,” he said.
After that, Spaulding said teams will complete final guidance system checks as well as range safety systems before entering a t-10 minutes hold that’s 30 minutes long.
An updated timeline from tanking through launch as well as post-launch mission plans can be see on our Artemis I mission timeline.
The opening of the launch window is 12 hours away with the sun having set and the floodlights illuminating the 312-foot-tall rocket on Launch Pad 39-B. The weather forecast from Space Launch Delta 45′s weather forecast remains 80% favorable at the opening of that window, but slips to 60% by 10:30 a.m.
Five lightning strikes on Saturday afternoon to the 600-foot-tall towers surrounding the pad were determined by NASA officials to have done no damage to SLS, Orion or any of the ground support apparatus.
“We did the analysis with our system experts as far as all the data and and what those lightning events were so bottom line is we look really good. No issues no concerns, or constraints from the lightning events,” said Spaulding.
Tanking won’t begin until midnight, but the launch team will conduct one more weather and tanking briefing before they declare if they are “go” or ‘no-go” at 11:53 p.m.
Orlando Sentinel photographer Joe Burbank was among select journalists given a tour of Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center to view the Orion capsules NASA plans on using for the next two Artemis missions.
The Orion capsule built by Lockheed Martin is an essential part of the Artemis program, but was leftover from the defunct Constellation program from the 2000s.
It has the capacity to carry four astronauts, and the crew for Artemis II, a flight not planned to take off until at least May 2024, is expected to be named before the end of the year, according to officials with NASA’s Astronaut Corps. That flight will orbit the moon, but not land.
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“We did the initial power-on activities earlier this year and it is going through its test phase and will roll into the integration of the other components for Artemis II and deliver into NASA’s hands in 2024,” said Lockheed Martin’s Kelly DeFazio, director of Orion production.
Artemis III is planned for no earlier than 2025, although an audit of the Artemis program warns that’s likely to slip until 2026. That flight will also bring four astronauts to the moon and the current plan is to send two of the four down to the lunar surface after they transfer to the Human Landing System for the mission, a contract that was given to SpaceX which will develop a lunar version of its in-development Starship.
“It is going through its primary and secondary structural installation and later this year we’ll go into the cleanroom for welding activities to install the propulsion system,” DeFazio said.
The capsule for Artemis IV is in the works at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and is expect to be shipped to KSC by February 2023.
“That’s going to put us exactly where we need to be here at Kennedy Space Center with three spacecraft in flow at once,” she said. “It’s that rate that we need to be ramped up to to meet the one-over-one, the mission-over-mission annual rate for NASA and we are on plan to meet that.”
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