NASA Completes Wet Dress Rehearsal for Agency’s Most Powerful Rocket—With One Hiccup

NASA has three different configurations planned for the SLS. The first configuration, Block 1, will have a total thrust of 8.8 million pounds—15 percent more than that of the Saturn V rocket. [Courtesy: NASA]

After multiple delays and attempts, on Monday NASA completed a wet dress rehearsal for the Space Launch System (SLS), the agency’s most powerful rocket. The rehearsal wasn’t perfect, but it took the SLS one giant step forward toward becoming operational.

Having previously encountered temperature limit issues, faulty core stage valves, and a liquid oxygen leak, the launch team fully loaded all of the SLS’s propellant tanks. Following that major milestone, NASA proceeded with the terminal launch countdown, where launch day operations are simulated.

However, a hydrogen leak was found on the connection point between an umbilical cord from the tail service mast and the rocket’s core stage. Fortunately, launch controllers were able to “mask the data associated with the leak,” allowing them to continue the test, according to NASA.

“You cannot look at this test in a vacuum,” said Jim Free, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “You need to look at the holistic effort that has gotten us through yesterday.”

According to Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the majority of objectives for the rehearsal were met.

“When you talk about an objective that we didn’t meet, there was no whole objective that we didn’t meet,” Thompson said. “You can dissect that objective into pieces, and there are elements within terminal count that we did not get to verify, and that was primarily the bleed flow.”

According to Free, the spacecraft affixed to the top of the rocket, Orion, performed optimally during Monday’s test. As for a launch date, NASA has not confirmed if the SLS will be ready by its first launch window in August.

Upcoming Launch Windows:

  • July 26 - August 10
  • August 23 - September 6
  • September 20 - October 4
Jeremy attained his bachelor's in journalism and emerging media from Kennesaw State University. He also served in the Georgia Air National Guard as a C-130 Crew Chief for six years, holding an associate in aircraft maintenance technology.
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