NASA scrubs Artemis I launch due to technical issue

After much fanfare, including a crop of celebrity appearances and the arrival of Vice President Kamala Harris, NASA said it was scrubbing today’s first-ever launch attempt of the mega moon rocket due to technical issues.

The mission was scrubbed at T-40 minutes after engineers were unable to resolve a hydrogen bleed line issue with one of the rocket’s four engines. “The engine bleed couldn’t be remedied,” NASA communications officer Derrol Nail said. NASA has another launch opportunity on September 2, but Nail suggested that “we must wait to see what shakes out” from the data as to whether a launch can be attempted on that date.

Today marked the first launch window for the 322-foot-tall Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule. The mission, also called Artemis I, is meant to kickstart NASA’s ambitious Artemis program to return humans to the moon by the middle of the decade. Artemis I is an uncrewed test to gather performance data on the Orion spacecraft before it carries astronauts for the next mission, Artemis II, tentatively set to launch in 2024.

The two-hour launch window was meant to open at 8:33 AM ET, but at 8:35 AM NASA officially called off the mission. The first issue that emerged was what looked like a crack in the rocket’s core stage thermal protection material, though this was later identified as a crack in the foam, not the actual tank. Engineers also identified a bleed in a liquid hydrogen line meant to cool the four RS-25 engines on the bottom of the rocket’s core stage. NASA called a halt to countdown at T-40 minutes.

“Engineers are now working on a plan to continue gathering data on this particular engine and the bleed that didn’t work out,” Nail said. “The hydrogen bleed was a goal of the previous wet dress rehearsal that didn’t happen due to a hydrogen leak.”

If issues with hydrogen sound familiar, it’s because NASA faced a hydrogen leak issue during a wet dress rehearsal in June. Due to this issue, engineers halted countdown at T-29 seconds and were unable to continue testing on the thermal system.

NASA officials said they were still coming up with a troubleshooting plan and gathering data on the hydrogen leak issue.