An engine problem forced NASA on Monday to postpone for at least four days the debut launch of the colossal rocketship it hopes will one day fly astronauts back to the moon, more than a half-century after Apollo’s last lunar mission.
The U.S. space agency cited a problem on one of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s main engines, as launch teams began a test that would have cooled the engines for liftoff.
One of them would not cool as expected.The delay was called at 08:35 a.m. EDT (1235 GMT), two minutes after the targeted launch time, as the 32-story-tall, rocket and its Orion capsule awaited liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The mission, dubbed Artemis I, calls for a six-week, uncrewed test flight of Orion around the moon and back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific.
NASA did not give a new launch date for the two-stage rocket but said its first available opportunity was Friday, Sept.2.
Whether the agency sticks with that date depends on how quickly engineers can resolve the engine issue.
The subsequent launch opportunity is Monday, Sept.5. Late-hour launch delays are routine in the space business, and Monday’s postponement was not an indication of a major setback for NASA or its primary contractors, Boeing Co (BA.N) for SLS and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) for Orion.
“We don’t launch until it’s right,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said in a webcast interview just after the liftoff was scrubbed.
“It’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all those things have to work.
And you don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go.” Still, the delay was a disappointment to thousands of spectators who had gathered on the shores around Cape Canaveral, with binoculars in hand.
Vice President Kamala Harris had just arrived at the space center, joining a throng of dignitaries and invited guests attending the event, shortly before the scrub was called.