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NASA says delayed Moon rocket passed fueling test

NASA said Wednesday it has successfully tested the fueling process for its new moon rocket.

NASA said on Wednesday it had successfully tested the fueling process for its new rocket, after two attempts to get the behemoth off the ground were halted by technical problems a few weeks ago as it headed for the moon.

“We were able to accomplish all the objectives we set out to do today,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, launch director of the Artemis 1 program.

The unmanned mission hopes to test the new 30-story SLS rocket, as well as the unmanned Orion capsule sitting atop it, in preparation for future manned trips to the Moon.

The last attempt to launch NASA’s most powerful rocket in early September was aborted due to a leak while its cryogenic fuel – liquid hydrogen and oxygen – was being pumped into the rocket’s tanks.

Repairs were made and those tanks were filled again at Wednesday’s test.

Although a small hydrogen leak was detected during the test, NASA engineers were able to contain it.

NASA said last week that it is now targeting September 27 as the next liftoff date. October 2 was set as a backup date.

“Teams will evaluate test data along with weather and other factors before confirming readiness to proceed with the next launch opportunity,” NASA said.

Asked about the timing of the next launch attempt, Blackwell-Thompson declined to comment, though she said she was “very encouraged by today’s test.”

US officials are also monitoring Hurricane Fiona’s path along the Atlantic coast.

For the September 27 date to be possible, NASA must obtain a waiver to avoid retesting the batteries in a detonation system used to destroy the rocket if the rocket veered uncontrollably off course.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts to the moon without landing on its surface, while the third — scheduled for the mid-2020s — will see the first woman and person of color on lunar soil.

Ahead of missions to Mars in the 2030s, NASA wants to build a lunar space station called Gateway and maintain a long-term presence on the moon to gain insight into how to survive very long space missions.

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