NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Photo courtesy of NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA’s Artemis campaign includes multiple missions with the ultimate goal of returning people—including the first woman and person of color—to the moon. The first mission, which will not have a crew, was set to blast off Monday but was scrubbed due to engine and other issues, the agency announced.

The countdown for the Artemis I mission began Saturday, with NASA’s Space Launch System rocket expected to take to the skies from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The world’s most powerful rocket, the SLS uses four RS-25 engines on its bottom stage, one of which did not reach the proper temperature range for liftoff.

“The rocket remains in a safe configuration as teams assess next steps,” Jackie McGuinness, NASA press secretary said during a press conference Monday.

The mission management team will meet tomorrow to discuss data and next steps, McGuinness added.

The SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, the first NASA-built human spacecraft for deep-space missions in a generation. In this first mission, the Orion will not have a crew and will travel 280,000 miles, including 40,000 miles past the moon, over about six weeks.

Two Long Beach companies, Rubbercraft and NuSpace, contributed parts for the Artemis 1 launch, according to NASA’s website. Rubbercraft, which produces seals and gaskets for aerospace, aviation, defense and medical industries, provided parts for the Orion. NuSpace, meanwhile, which specializes in propellent systems and tanks, contributed to the SLS.

“This is a new rocket, it’s not gonna fly until it’s ready,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said during the press conference. “There are millions of components … and, needless to say, the complexity is daunting.”

If successful, the Orion will stay in space longer than any human spacecraft without docking to a space station, according to the agency. The Orion also will return home faster and hotter than any spacecraft before it.

The Artemis I mission will mark the first integrated test of the SLS rocket, the Orion spacecraft and the supporting ground systems. It also will test orbits and pave the way for future Artemis missions.

The future Artemis II mission will mimic Artemis I with the addition of a crew.

Artemis III and subsequent missions will have crews with the purpose of establishing the first long-term presence on and around the moon. Lessons learned in the moon missions will then be leveraged in NASA’s future efforts to send the first astronauts to Mars.

“Scrubs are just a part of this program,” Nelson said, adding that a space flight he participated in 36 years ago was scrubbed four times on the pad before its successful launch. Scrubbing missions is essential to ensure safety, which is of the utmost importance.

During the countdown, the launch team was able to troubleshoot several issues, including problems with the Orion software and a hydrogen leak during fuel loading, according to mission manager Mike Sarafin. There also was an issue with a vent valve that contributed to the scrub, he said.

In addition to the technical issues, Sarafin said the weather—rain and lighting—likely would have forced the mission to be scrubbed anyway.

“The team is setting up for a 96-hour recycle—they’re still holding in the launch countdown configuration,” Sarafin said, adding that they still hope to launch this week.

“Friday is definitely in play.”

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Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.