NASA SLS Wet Test Was Unsuccessful

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NASA has postponed a critical fueling test of the Space Launch System rocket following three failures. Space Shuttle Launch System (SLS) will be relocated to a vehicle assembly facility in the next few days, NASA said Saturday night. A “wet dress rehearsal” test, in which the rocket is fueled and brought to within 10 seconds of launch, has failed, putting the program in jeopardy.

Fuelling efforts were scuppered by the rocket, its movable launch tower, or the ground systems that provide propellants and gases. NASA’s most recent attempt on Thursday, April 14, was successful in loading 49% of the core-stage liquid oxygen fuel tank and 5% of the core-stage liquid hydrogen fuel tank.

When it comes to the most dramatic aspect of this test—the last countdown, in which the rocket and ground systems are placed into a terminal countdown, and every variable is meticulously monitored—this is just the beginning. Before the rocket is wheeled out later this year for its planned launch later this year, NASA conducted a wet dress rehearsal test to ensure that the complicated launch system was working properly.

Resolving difficulties that developed during fueling tests of the SLS rocket would require a trip back inside NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). This includes Air Liquide, a company that provides nitrogen gas systems. The “tail service mast umbilical” structure, which provides fuel and electrical connections to the rocket on the launchpad, is also being replaced.

There were no scheduling changes reported by NASA, according to the agency’s statement. The SLS rocket is expected to return to the Vehicle Assembly Building in a week or two after it has been readied and wheeled back into position. In any case, the rocket’s assembly at that location is expected to consume all of May. After 11 years of research and $30 billion invested in the SLS rocket and ground systems now being tested, NASA is optimistic that the rocket will make it out of this challenging phase.

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