NASA will take another stab at a critical test of its Artemis 1 moon mission this weekend.
The agency began the Artemis 1 "wet dress rehearsal" — a practice run of the most important prelaunch activities, including rocket fueling — last Friday (April 1) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Everything was supposed to wrap up about 48 hours later, but that didn't happen; the Artemis 1 team ran into several issues, which ended up delaying the test.
Early this week, that delay turned into a halt, which was called to accommodate Ax-1, a private astronaut mission to the International Space Station that launched today (April 8) from a neighboring pad at KSC. With Ax-1 now safely on its way, the Artemis 1 wet dress can get up and running again.
NASA aims to resume the test with a "call to stations" at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) on Saturday (April 9), NASA officials wrote in a blog post yesterday (April 7). If everything goes according to plan, fueling of Artemis 1's huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will occur on Monday (April 11), as will several practice countdowns.
The mission team will work toward a simulated launch time of 2:40 p.m. EDT (1840 GMT) on Monday. The test will wind down after that with activities such as draining propellant from the SLS' tanks.
But this timeline is tentative, agency officials stressed.
"Teams continue to troubleshoot and refine the test schedule to account for insights gained during the previous runs and activities," officials with NASA's Exploration Ground Systems program said via Twitter yesterday.
Artemis 1, the first-ever flight of the SLS and of NASA's Artemis program of lunar exploration, will send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a roughly month-long mission around the moon. The mission is expected to launch in June or thereabouts; NASA won't set a target date until the wet dress rehearsal is over and teams have analyzed the resulting data.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts on a similar around-the-moon mission in 2024, and Artemis 3 will land astronauts near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.