NASA's Orion service module for the Artemis 2 mission stands in the Operations and Checkout Building during a media tour at Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. August 28, 2022. REUTERS/Steve Nesius
NASA delayed the debut launch of its new massive rocket due to an issue with one of its main engines, dealing a temporary blow to the space agency’s plan to return to the lunar surface.
The uncrewed Artemis I mission was called off at 8:34 a.m. local time at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to evaluate a temperature problem, NASA said Monday in a statement. The rocket and space capsule are in "a safe and stable configuration,” and NASA engineers continue to gather data.
The earliest available opportunity to try again is on Sept. 2, NASA said in a webcast while announcing the scrubbed launch. No decision has been made on rescheduling.
Official confirmation of the delay came after the space agency spent the early morning hours investigating issues including a potential crack in material in the main body of the rocket as well as a possible temperature issue with one of the main engines, officials said earlier Monday. Those came after engineers examined and resolved a suspected leak affecting the hydrogen tanking process.
The Artemis mission will be the first major flight in NASA’s ambitious plan to send the first woman and the first person of color to the lunar surface as early as 2025. Artemis I is aimed at testing out the Space Launch System, made by Boeing Co., and a new deep-space crew capsule called Orion that was developed by Lockheed Martin Corp.
When Artemis I does launch, SLS will be sending Orion on a 42-day mission, along with a host of payloads and sensors to track the journey. The capsule is tasked with inserting itself into lunar orbit and entering deep space before return to Earth in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego.
The Space Launch System already is more than five years behind schedule. It has been in development for roughly a decade, slowed by a myriad of delays and cost overruns. Development costs of the program have soared from an original $7 billion to about $23 billion, according to an estimate by the Planetary Society.
If successful, the Artemis program -- named for the twin sister of the god Apollo in Greek mythology -- will see the return of people to the lunar surface for the first time in 50 years. No one has visited the moon since Apollo 17 in December 1972.
Boeing shares declined about 1.2% in premarket trading. Lockheed Martin shares were down less than 1%