NASA is reportedly preparing to rehouse its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket after three failed attempts to complete wet dress rehearsal testing, according to Space.com. The rocket will now be rolled off Launchpad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and returned to its assembly building, the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)
The SLS is a super-heavy non-reusable launch vehicle that NASA is currently scheduled for a June 2022 launch as part of the Artemis program whose primary aim is to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972. Once completed and successfully tested, it would be the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA.
Even though SLS is scheduled for a June 2022 launch, that is dependent on it completing a wet dress rehearsal, which hasn’t managed to.
The wet dress rehearsal consists of a series of key trials designed to show that Artemis 1’s SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft and their associated ground infrastructure are ready to go. It began on April 1 and was supposed to wrap up 48 hours later, after the loading of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants into the rocket and some simulated launch countdowns.
But the team ran into many problems, and after abortive tries on April 3 and 4, eventually had to stand down to accommodate a private astronaut mission which was scheduled to be launched on April 8 from the same launchpad.
The rehearsal continued again on April 12 in a modified format after the team discovered a faulty valve on the mobile launch tower supporting the rocket and the stack but the team had to stop it once again after they noticed liquid hydrogen leaking from one of the lines running from the mobile launch tower to the SLS.
Initially, the team had planned on resuming the wet dress rehearsal around April 21 but NASA instead decided to roll the rocket back to the VAB to replace the faulty valve and assess the readiness of the rocket and associated system.
“While most objectives associated with the wet dress rehearsal were met during recent testing, teams plan to return to the launch pad when repairs and checkouts in the VAB are complete for the next full wet dress test attempt,” said an announcement by the agency. NASA did not yet provide any tentative dates for the next test.
Once ready and tested, SLS will see its first deployment in the Artemis 1 mission which will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a journey around the moon. Even though the agency was hoping to launch the mission sometime in June, it hasn’t yet set an official date and is unlikely to do so until a full wet dress rehearsal is complete.