It’s not a joke: the Artemis I rocket leaks again

For the third time, NASA encounters a hydrogen leak on Artemis I. While the agency is carrying out a test with its large rocket, the concern that arose during the last take-off attempt is still apparent.

Never two without three. After two abandoned attempts to launch the Artemis I rocket to the Moon, NASA is carrying out a test this Wednesday, September 21, 2022. No launch is planned: it is only a question of succeeding in filling some of the tanks of the launcher, the Space Launch System (SLS), with liquid hydrogen, which acts as fuel.

But, for the third time, a hydrogen leak was observed, Did we learn around 4:20 p.m. The leak occurred when NASA passed “fast” filling liquid hydrogen from one of the tanks (refueling is carried out in several stages, starting with a slow fill in hydrogen). The concern seems equivalent to the problem encountered during the launch attempt of Artemis I on September 3. For the moment, NASA has not abandoned the tank filling test, and is trying to replace the faulty seal and plug the breach.

The SLS rocket on its launch pad. // Source: Flickr/CC/NASA/Joel Kowsky (cropped photo)

But, why persist in using hydrogen for the rocket?

Hydrogen is definitely the big difficulty encountered by NASA with Artemis I. However, even if it is difficult to master, this fuel has undeniable qualities. This technology is used by most active launchers, as its performance is good (and better than kerosene) for flying such massive rockets. Hydrogen remains a safe bet, even if its use involves constraints (it must be cooled enormously for it to reach a liquid state).

Impatience scientists and space enthusiasts are beginning to make themselves felt. It must be said that the Artemis I mission is very important for NASA, even if it is uninhabited. With this first flight around the Moon, the space agency is preparing for the return of astronauts to the Earth’s natural satellite. This first flight of the Artemis program should send the Orion capsule into lunar orbit, before bringing it back to Earth. During Artémis II, the program will be similar, but with a crew on board. Nothing should therefore be left to chance for their safety, and this is being prepared now.

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The Space Launch System.  // Source: NASA/Sam Lott (cropped photo)

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