NASA attempts to fuel a moon rocket in a test, but a leak develops - worldsnews
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NASA attempts to fuel a moon rocket in a test, but a leak develops

CAPE FLORIDA'S CANAVERAL (AP) — In preparation for a launch attempt as early as next week, engineers were testing the plumbing when NASA's new moon rocket had another fuel leak on Wednesday.

The day-long demonstration had hardly started when, despite new seals and other fixes, dangerous hydrogen fuel started escaping at the same location and at the same time as before. In an effort to fix the leak, engineers stopped the flow, warmed the pipes, and then carried out the test. However, the leak continued.

The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket's performance on Wednesday will determine if it is prepared for its maiden test flight, a mannequin-only voyage to the moon.

First two launches were unsuccessful due to hydrogen leakage, and previous countdown tests were also ruined. This month's countdown resulted in a hydrogen escape rate that was more than twice as high as NASA's limit. The leak on Wednesday was almost at the maximum, but as the test went on, the launch crew was able to reduce it to a manageable level.

NASA changed two seals as a result of the earlier delay. One was slightly dented; it was only a tenth of an inch.

The mission manager, Mike Sarafin, remarked, "Now it doesn't seem like a lot, but again we're dealing with hydrogen," the smallest element on the periodic chart.

Wednesday's goal was to fill the rocket with as little leaking as possible—nearly 1 million gallons (4 million liters). Assuming the U.S. Space Force extends the approval of batteries on board that are a part of the flight safety system, that would put NASA on track for a potential launch attempt Tuesday.

In addition to changing the seals, NASA modified the fuelling procedure by adding the super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen more gradually. The launch crew worked much more slowly to put even less strain on the plumbing after Wednesday's leak became apparent.

The crew capsule atop the rocket will be the first to orbit the moon in fifty years if it is launched. Over five weeks should pass until the $4.1 billion mission's splashdown in the Pacific. For the second test trip, which will take place in 2024, astronauts will board and race around the moon. In the third trip, which is scheduled for 2025, two astronauts would really touch down on the moon.

Saturn V, which sent the Apollo astronauts to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was outclassed by NASA's Space Launch System rocket in terms of power. The space shuttles' now-retired spacecraft are still used for the engines and boosters. During the shuttle era, particularly in the early 1990s, NASA battled mysterious hydrogen leaks just like it does now.

The Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute provides funding to the Associated Press Health and Science Department. All content is the exclusive responsibility of the AP.