NASA announced Wednesday that it had successfully tested the fueling process for its new rocket, following the failure of two previous attempts to launch the behemoth into space.
“We were able to accomplish all of the objectives that we set out to do today,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the program’s launch director.
In preparation for future Moon-bound journeys with humans aboard, the unmanned mission hopes to test the new 30-story SLS rocket as well as the unmanned Orion capsule that sits atop it.
The previous attempt to launch NASA’s most powerful rocket, in early September, had to be aborted due to a leak while its cryogenic fuels—liquid hydrogen and oxygen—were being pumped into the rocket’s tanks.
Repairs were made, and the test on Wednesday involved refilling those tanks.
Despite the fact that a small hydrogen leak was discovered during the test, NASA engineers were able to contain it.
NASA announced last week that the next launch date will be September 27. A backup date of October 2 was set.
“Teams will evaluate the test data, as well as weather and other factors, before confirming readiness to proceed to the next launch opportunity,” NASA said.
When asked about the next launch attempt, Blackwell-Thompson declined to comment, saying she was “extremely encouraged by the test today.”
US officials are also keeping a close eye on Hurricane Fiona’s path off the coast of the United States in the Atlantic.
To meet the September 27 deadline, NASA must obtain a waiver to avoid having to retest the batteries on a detonation system used to destroy the rocket if it deviates uncontrollably off course.
The following mission, Artemis 2, would send astronauts to the Moon but not land on its surface, while the third, scheduled for the mid-2020s, would place the first woman and person of colour on lunar soil. NASA plans to build a lunar space station called Gateway and maintain a sustained presence on the Moon in order to learn how to survive extremely long space missions in preparation for a mission to Mars in the 2030s.