KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. - NASA’s new moon rocket sprang another dangerous fuel leak Saturday, forcing launch controllers to call off their second attempt this week to send a crew capsule into lunar orbit with test dummies. The inaugural flight is now off for weeks, if not months.
The previous try on Monday at launching the 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA, was also troubled by hydrogen leaks, though they were smaller. That was on top of leaks detected during countdown drills earlier in the year.
After the latest setback, mission managers decided to haul the rocket off the pad and into the hangar for further repairs and system updates. Some of the work and testing may be performed at the pad before the rocket is moved.
"Teams have decided to replace the seal on an interface, called the quick disconnect, between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line on the mobile launcher and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket while at the launch pad," NASA said in an Artemis I mission blog post on Tuesday. "Performing the work at the pad requires technicians to set up an enclosure around the work area to protect the hardware from the weather and other environmental conditions, but enables engineers to test the repair under cryogenic, or supercold, conditions."
Either way, several weeks of work will be needed, according to officials.
With a two-week launch blackout period, the rocket is now grounded until late September or October. NASA will work around a high-priority SpaceX astronaut flight to the International Space Station scheduled for early October.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.