Artemis I launch scrubbed after engine issue

By Aditi Sangal, Ashley Strickland, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 1:31 PM ET, Thu September 1, 2022
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2:09 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

NASA postponed the launch of Artemis I. Here's what you need to know

The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket sits on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 29, after NASA postponed the launch.
The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket sits on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 29, after NASA postponed the launch. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

NASA postponed the launch of Artemis I, the mega rocket that aims to go beyond the moon and return to Earth. It's the first launch in NASA's Artemis program, which hopes to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972.

Here's everything you need to know about the scrubbed launch.

NASA highlighted these issues that factored in the decision to scrub:

  • There was an issue with engine bleed in engine #3, according to Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin. Super cold liquid hydrogen is cycled through the engine to get it ready it for launch. The other three engines were performing as expected.
  • The team knew that engine bleed issue was a risk heading into this launch campaign, and it would be the first time demonstrating that successfully, Sarafin said Monday.
  • There was also an issue with the vent valve in at the inner tank, he added.
  • Besides these issues, the weather conditions were also not favorable during the launch window — there was precipitation in the beginning and lightning later on, Sarafin explained.

What happens next: The launch team will "reconvene tomorrow" to discuss options, Sarafin told reporters Monday.

The next possible launch window is Friday: NASA had already determined more than one launch date for Artemis I before the launch was postponed Monday. The next availability is this Friday, Sept. 2, which is still "in play," according to Sarafin, but engineers still need to troubleshoot the issue to determine if NASA can use that launch window.

The Sept. 2 launch window will open at 12:48 p.m. ET and last two hours.

1:37 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Friday launch window is still "in play" for Artemis I, NASA official says

From CNN's Ross Levitt and Aaron Cooper

Friday is still “in play” for a launch of NASA’s Artemis I after Monday’s scheduled launch was scrubbed, Artemis mission manager Mike Serafin said.

Friday is NASA’s next available window to launch. Serafin wouldn’t speculate on what the chances for launch are on Friday. 

“We really need time to look at all the information, all the data. We’re going to play all nine innings here,” Serafin said.  

The launch was scrubbed largely due to an issue with one of the rocket’s four engines, though officials indicated they don’t think the issue is with the engine itself but instead the process of feeding the engines with liquid hydrogen, which is used to cool the engine for launch. 

Mission managers will meet Tuesday afternoon to evaluate the next steps and to see if Friday’s attempt is possible. They could also delay for much longer amounts of time, including the three-and-a-half-day process of rolling the rocket back to the vehicle assembly building if a more substantial fix is needed.

1:30 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Weather was also an issue during today's launch window, NASA says

Weather conditions also factored into the decision to scrub the Artemis I launch today, Mike Sarafin, the Artemis I mission manager, said. 

"There were also a series of weather issues throughout the launch window. We would have been a no-go for weather at the beginning of the window due to precipitation. Later on in the window, we would have been no-go for lightning within the launchpad area," he explained.

More background: CNN reported that weather conditions remained 80% favorable for a launch at the beginning of a window that opened at 8:33 a.m. ET. But several issues cropped up after the rocket began fueling after midnight. Offshore storms with the potential for lightning prevented the team from beginning the fueling process, due to start at midnight, for about an hour.

CNN's Ashley Strickland contributed reporting to this post. 

1:20 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

NASA knew that the engine bleed issue was a risk and it would be the first time demonstrating it

The launch team had trouble getting one of the four RS-25 engines to the proper temperature for liftoff, which led to NASA postponing the launch of Artemis I, NASA said at the beginning of the press briefing on Monday.

"Once we got through the propellant loading on the rocket, both on core stage and the upper stage, they started the engine bleed," said Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin. "We talked in our flight readiness review about the engine bleed, we knew that that was a risk heading into this launch campaign and it would be the first time demonstrating that successfully."

The launch was postponed this morning when the launch team discovered an issue with an engine bleed in engine #3. Before the launch, super cold liquid hydrogen is cycled through the engine to get it ready it for launch. Three of the four engines were performing as expected, but engine #3 experienced an issue.

"We did encounter an issue chilling down engine #3. We need the engine to be at the cryogenically cool temperature such that when it starts, it’s not shocked with all the cold fuel that flows through it. So we needed a little extra time to assess that," Sarafin explained.

"When the team started working through that, they also saw an issue with the vent valve at the inner tank," he added.

"So the combination of not being able to get the engine #3 chill down and then the vent valve issue that they saw at the inner tank really caused us to pause today and we felt like a little more time," he noted.

1:42 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

NASA administrator: Scrubs are a part of this program to make mission as safe as possible

A NASA helicopter flies past the agency’s Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard atop the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B on Monday, Aug. 29.
A NASA helicopter flies past the agency’s Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard atop the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B on Monday, Aug. 29. (Joel Kowsky/NASA)

NASA administrator Bill Nelson stressed that "scrubs are just a part of this program," during a news conference speaking on the postponement of launching the Artemis I rocket.

"When you're dealing in a high risk business and spaceflight is risky, that's what you do. You buy down that risk, you make it as safe as possible and of course that is the whole reason for this test flight. To stress it and to test it, to make sure it's as safe as possible when Artemis II, when we put humans on the spacecraft," Nelson said.

Discussing a space flight that he participated in decades ago with astronaut Hoot Gibson, Nelson said that there were four scrubs from the launch pad. "Looking back had we, after the fifth try, got off to a perfect mission, it would've not been a good day had we launched on any one of those four scrubs."

1:20 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Artemis team will "reconvene tomorrow" on next possible launch options, mission manager says

Mike Sarafin, NASA's Artemis I mission manager, speaks during a NASA briefing in Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.
Mike Sarafin, NASA's Artemis I mission manager, speaks during a NASA briefing in Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. (Bill Ingalls/NASA)

Mike Sarafin, the Artemis I mission manager, said they have not set a new date for when the launch will be rescheduled, saying the team will "reconvene tomorrow" to discuss options.

“We’re going to give the team time to rest, first of all, and then come back fresh tomorrow and reassess what we learned today and then develop a series of options. It’s too early to say what the options are," Sarafin said at a news conference Monday.

He said the team worked through "a number of issues today" both technical and weather related, adding ultimately they "felt like we needed a little more time."

"We will come back and talk about where we stand tomorrow evening," Sarafin said.

12:28 p.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Vice President Kamala Harris reaffirms US commitment to NASA's Artemis program

Vice President Kamala Harris reaffirmed the United States' commitment to NASA's Artemis program after the mega rocket's launch was postponed due to an engine issue.

Harris was at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with second gentleman Doug Emhoff to watch the launch.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said he briefed her after the launch was postponed.

Talking to reporters, she also expressed optimism, saying that “innovation requires this kind of moment.”

“The work that happened today was a test that is also gonna teach us what we can learn about what was working and what wasn’t working. Innovation requires this kind of moment. Where you test out something that’s never been done and then you regroup and you figure out what the next step will be to get to the ultimate goal — which for us is going to the moon and showing how humans can live and work on the moon, with then next step going to Mars,” Harris said.

CNN's Allie Malloy contributed reporting to this post.

10:33 a.m. ET, August 29, 2022

Here's why NASA wants to return to the moon 50 years later with Artemis I

From CNN's Ashley Strickland

It's no coincidence that the Artemis program is named for the twin sister of Apollo from Greek mythology. Artemis will pick up where the famed Apollo program left off in 1972 — 50 years ago — by sending crewed missions to the moon, but in a new way.

When Artemis I launches, the uncrewed mission will test every new component that will make future deep space exploration possible before humans make the journey in 2024 and 2025 aboard Artemis II and Artemis III, respectively.
After the launch from Earth, Artemis I will go on a 42-day mission. During the journey, the Orion spacecraft will travel 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) beyond the moon — 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers) farther than the record set during Apollo 13. This path mimics the journey that the Artemis II crew will take in 2024.

It will be the farthest that any spacecraft built for humans has flown, according to NASA officials.

The Orion spacecraft has hardware and software that will allow future crews to have complete insight into what's happening with their vehicle when they are thousands of miles from home.

Goals of the Artemis program include landing diverse crews of astronauts on the moon and exploring the shadowy lunar south pole for the first time. The ambitious effort also aims to establish a sustained presence on the moon and create reusable systems that can enable human exploration of Mars and perhaps beyond.

All of the objectives for the inaugural Artemis flight will demonstrate capabilities necessary for when Orion carries humans to deep space. The list includes an overall safe flight, the performance of the Space Launch System rocket, testing the heat shield and retrieving the spacecraft once it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.

9:37 a.m. ET, August 29, 2022

CNN reporter explains the issue that postponed NASA's Artemis I launch

Today's historic launch of Artemis I on its mission to the moon was postponed due to an issue with one of the rocket's four engines.

NASA is expected to provide an update later today, but here's what we know so far:

The launch team discovered an issue with an engine bleed in one of the rocket's four engines. During engine bleeds, hydrogen is cycled through the engine to condition it for launch. Three of the four engines were performing as expected, but engine #3 was experiencing an issue.

Watch CNN's Kristin Fisher explain all the issues NASA encountered before launch: