Four lightning strikes hit the lightning towers of the Space Launch System (SLS) over the weekend, as NASA continued to carry out its wet dress rehearsal for its upcoming Artemis I program, the space agency said in a press release.
NASA plans to send a woman and a person of color to the Moon by 2025 as part of its Artemis Program and plans to send a mission as early as next month with dummy torsos and life-sized manikins to measure the radiation levels that the astronauts are likely to face during the mission. In preparation for this mission, NASA scheduled a dress rehearsal at its launch pad 39B between the 1st and 5th of April that includes fuelling the giant rocket with liquid fuels.
On April 2nd, NASA confirmed that three minor bolts of lightning had struck the launch site. The lightning towers built alongside the length of the rockets for essentially this purpose took the hits of the low-intensity strikes. A fourth, higher intensity strike hit tower one when the core stage of the rocket and the Orion spacecraft in which the crew are scheduled to travel were powered up.
After reviewing the data, the NASA team decided to continue with the testing and put in some extra hours to make up for the time lost due to inclement weather. However, multiple other snags hit the dress rehearsal, the space agency confirmed over the following days.
Issues that affected Artemis wet dress rehearsal
On April 3rd, two fans pressurizing the mobile launcher and keeping the hazardous gases out failed, preventing the technicians from loading the liquid propellants in the rocket's core and interim propulsion stages, NASA said in another blog post.
After the fan issue was resolved, a valve issue in the ground equipment stopped the fueling attempt, NASA wrote in a tweet.
Due the vent valve issue, the launch director has called off the test for the day. The team is preparing to offload LOX and will begin discussing how quickly the vehicle can be turned around for the next attempt. A lot of great learning and progress today.-JP— NASA's Exploration Ground Systems (@NASAGroundSys) April 4, 2022
This was NASA's second attempt to fuel the rocket stages. Although the team could complete the fueling attempt, it managed to develop a new procedure for loading the liquid oxygen and filled it up to 50 percent before the attempt had to be aborted.
It is unclear if the space agency will carry out a third attempt to refuel the rocket on Tuesday again. The wet-dress rehearsal has already pushed forward a private launch mission to the International Space Station, Space.com reported.