For the second time this week, NASA was forced to cancel the launch of the Artemis I rocket to the moon due to repeated liquid hydrogen leaks.
Initially scheduled to launch on Monday, it was moved to launching Saturday afternoon before fuel leaks led to the second launch being scrubbed.
NASA engineers fixed the leaks three times, but the liquid hydrogen problems were recurring. At 11:17 a.m, after troubleshooting failed, the Artemis I launch was called off by launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson.
“There is still a backup opportunity for the Artemis I mission to launch on September 5,” according to CNN.
The preparations for Saturday’s abortive launch were initially delayed after the new hydrogen leak, which is in a different place on the rocket than Monday’s leak, was detected at 7:15 local time this morning.
NASA warmed up the hydrogen fuel line in an attempt to remake a tight seal and get hydrogen flowing into the rocket again. Oxygen and hydrogen need to be in the rocket’s engines in certain proportions in order to launch correctly.
The engineers shut off the liquid hydrogen, “close the valve used to fill and drain it, then increase pressure on a ground transfer line using helium to try to reseal it,” according to CNN.
As of 9:36 a.m, the hydrogen leak had twice reoccurred after two attempts at fixing the issue. The latest leak is “a cavity between the ground and flight side plates of a quick disconnect in the engine section,” according to NASA’s live blog of the Artemis I launch.
The Artemis I rocket is planned to be the tip of the spear of a new American moon program, one that eventually aims to maintain a presence on the moon. This first mission, however, is unmanned.