Live Coverage: NASA Space Launch System Wet Dress Rehearsal

After being cleared to proceed after four overnight lightning strikes in the launch pad area, NASA’s Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket is planned to begin a fueling and countdown test today which will proceed to the T−10 second mark before shutting down. This “wet countdown demonstration test” is intended to verify all of the steps leading to a launch.

A NASA Inspector General report published on 2021-11-21, “NASA’s Management of the Artemis Missions” [PDF] found:

We project the cost to fly a single SLS/Orion system through at least Artemis IV to be $4.1 billion per launch at a cadence of approximately one mission per year. Building and launching one Orion capsule costs approximately $1 billion, with an additional $300 million for the Service Module supplied by the ESA. … In addition, we estimate the single-use SLS will cost $2.2 billion to produce, including two rocket stages, two solid rocket boosters, four RS-25 engines, and two stage adapters. Ground systems located at Kennedy where the launches will take place—the Vehicle Assembly Building, Crawler-Transporter, Mobile Launcher 1, Launch Pad, and Launch Control Center—are estimated to cost $568 million per year due to the large support structure that must be maintained. The $4.1 billion total cost represents production of the rocket and the operations needed to launch the SLS/Orion system including materials, labor, facilities, and overhead, but does not include any money spent either on prior development of the system or for next-generation technologies such as the SLS’s Exploration Upper Stage, Orion’s docking system, or Mobile Launcher 2.

Everything you see sitting on the launch pad with the exception of the tiny Orion capsule at the top will be thrown away when launched, including the Space Shuttle (RS-25) main engines and solid rocket boosters, designed to be and reused throughout the three decades of Shuttle operations, which will end up as twisted wreckage on the ocean floor.

This is the centrepiece of NASA’s “sustainable return to the Moon”.

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At 13:36 UTC on 2022-04-03, the countdown has been in an unplanned hold at the T−6 hour mark for the last hour and 20 minutes as crews on the pad try to verify positive pressure in the mobile launcher before beginning loading of cryogenic propellants. The enclosed areas of the mobile launcher must be kept above ambient atmospheric pressure to ensure that gaseous hydrogen and oxygen vented from the propellant tanks do not enter them and mix, which would be bad.

There are two hours of margin for holds during the scheduled countdown, into which this delay is chewing.

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Countdown was resumed at the T−6 hour mark at 14:30 UTC. The next planned hold is at T−10 minutes, if nothing goes wrong.

Well, after about a minute, the countdown held and was reset to minus 6 hours. No word yet from NASA on why.

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Like your post, beyond disgusted with the program and its blatant waste.

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NASA is posting updates on “progress” in the test on the Twitter account of NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems. Latest:

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The facility appears to be decaying. I am getting Energia vibes from this.

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And…that’s it for today.

The next opportunity is to-morrow, assuming the problem can be resolved in time. The Axiom Space crew launch to the International Space Station is currently scheduled for Wednesday, 2022-04-06. What happens if the SLS test, on the adjoining launch pad, continues to slip toward that date has not been announced.

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From the NASA document dated 2018 linked by our host: “NASA is building a plan for Americans to orbit the Moon starting in 2023, and land astronauts on the surface no later than the late 2020s.

So something that took less than a decade from a standing start when President Kennedy set the original goal to go to the Moon is now projected to take more than a decade, despite about half a century of experience. And who could have any confidence that NASA’s goal of the “late 2020s” will be achieved?

Unfortunately, the problem is not restricted to NASA. As a culture, Western society has lost the capacity to do anything except create make-work for overhead bureaucrats & lawyers. Not sustainable.

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Could be worse. If the Navy managed it, they’d have added the term “mission modules” in every third paragraph of the project description, doubled the cost, and gotten something less capable than what it replaced.

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If you consider the SLS/Orion spacecraft as the direct successors of the original Constellation program Ares V and Crew Exploration Vehicle (which they are), both have been under development since 2005, or 17 years from inception through first unmanned flight, should they manage to launch Artemis 1 this year.

The Artemis 2 flight, which has been de-scoped from lunar orbit to a fly-by mission, is now planned for May 2024, and the Artemis 3 “Black to the Moon” landing for sometime in 2025, a cool two decades after the start of development of Constellation/Artemis, and that assumes nothing goes wrong with SLS or Orion on earlier flights, and that the complete development of SpaceX’s Starship HLS and all of the support infrastructure it will require has been completed by then.

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At this cost, the best case outcome is this never launches.

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…as long as that means they stop spending money on it! Robert Zubrin says (my paraphrase from memory) “NASA used to spend money to fly missions. Now they fly missions to spend money.”

Perhaps the next phase in this evolution is discovering they can spend money without flying missions at all. After all, most other federal agencies spend money without accomplishing anything.

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Here we go again.

They went to purge areas of the pad with gaseous nitrogen and—no nitrogen. Everything’s on hold until that is resolved. I will post a stream of the test if and when the countdown resumes.

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OK. Perhaps the Energia vibes are being flavored with N1 vibes.

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The countdown has resumed, the the first step being chill-down the liquid oxygen lines prior to beginning to fill the tanks on the first and second stages.

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Ahhh…, but they do accomplish effective obstruction of productive endeavors. They (still) generate reams of inkjet/laserjet paper - usually propaganda and real high-caliber misinformation - and let’s not forget social engineering they do , beginning with torturing language in accord with DIE, including accompanying sulfurious indignation aimed at those who might differ with the new rubrics.

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Here are “progress” reports for last several hours.

So, in other words, around four and a half hours after they planned to begin fuelling, not a single drop of liquid oxygen has been loaded onto the rocket. The countdown clock has continued to run and is now completely out of sync with the normal pre-flight schedule. They’re making it up as they go along.

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Now running about seven hours behind the originally planned time-line.

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