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NASA’s SLS Rocket Engine Test Deferred after Early Shutdown during ‘Wet Dress Rehearsal’

Preparations for the moon landing mission have been going on despite several interruptions. One of these interruptions is the early shutdown of the Space Launch System’s engines. Insufficient funding by the government has also caused confusion among NASA’s officials, which they say will determine this mission’s success. At the beginning of December, Boeing teamed up with NASA to fuel the SLS mega-rocket with 2.6 million liters of both hydrogen and liquid oxygen. This was done in Mississippi, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

However, after the propellant loading and replenishment process, the agency needed to test the engines in preparation for a launch rehearsal. This test did not go as expected as the engines shut down earlier than projected. “Part of the test was to simulate the countdown with the tanks loaded, leading up to 33 seconds before the engines firing,” said NASA officials. “However, the test ended a few minutes short of the planned countdown duration.”

This test was to happen earlier but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico also contributed to the slowdown. In a statement, NASA officials revealed that this shutdown was not caused by hardware problems. ‘The core stage and the B-2 test stand were in excellent condition. The team analyses details in order to determine the precise cause of early shutdown’, NASA said.

Successful testing of the Space Launch System (SLS) will determine if the Artemis I launch date will be affected. The moon-orbiting mission plans to land humans on the lunar surface by 2024. Another factor that will affect this mission is the funding it received in the 2021 fiscal year. According to NASA, the mission was granted only a quarter of the original request. This may affect the preparations and success of the Human Landing System. After a successful dress rehearsal, SLS will go through a test where all of its engines will be fired simultaneously. The test dubbed the ‘hot fire’, makes sure that the engines are set for spaceflight.

Another factor that will affect the HLS is the availability of new spacesuits that protect the astronauts in the moon environment. NASA has shortlisted 18 astronauts for the HLS. This makes a total of 22 astronauts headed to the moon since the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will produce 4 astronauts to join in this mission. In a press release, the CSA revealed that it would provide robotics to NASA and in return, NASA will allow Canada’s astronauts to take part in their lunar mission. “This will make Canada only the second country after the U.S to have an astronaut in deep space,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry.

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