NASA has provided additional details regarding its ongoing work on its new Space Launch System rocket, as well as the issues that surfaced during three prior tests. NASA has described the glitches as annoyances rather than severe problems. They happened during attempts to conduct a wet dress rehearsal in which fuel is loaded onto the rocket.
The first issue to be handled was a fuel leak caused by loose bolts in the umbilical that delivers fuel from the mobile launch platform to the rocket. This was a reasonably simple problem to resolve. Engineers at NASA are comfortable that the bolts are now properly tightened and should maintain their seal during refueling procedures.
In order to err on the side of caution, the engineers additionally relocated a filter that eliminates impurities from the fuel. This filter had not previously contributed to a leak, but relocating it will prevent it from doing so in the future.
The team has also been addressing a helium check valve that was jammed open because of a stray piece of rubber. The engineers were first uncertain as to the origin of this rubber, but they have subsequently discovered a defective O-ring seal that became dislodged and became caught in the valve.
Although the experts were able to replace any compromised support hardware, it remains unclear what caused the O-ring to get detached in the first place.
The team will continue to investigate the problem’s core cause and test their solution by repressurizing the system.
Checking to see if the rocket was damaged by the lightning strikes and thunderstorms that occurred during one of the tests; however, it was not, as there are towers on the launch pad that deflect lightning away from the rocket to prevent such damage.
NASA has also demanded that the provider of the gaseous nitrogen used in the test enhance its facilities in preparation for the subsequent attempt.
NASA has already stated that the wet dress rehearsal will not be attempted again until at least June. The update noted that “NASA will announce dates for rolling out to the pad and the next wet dress rehearsal attempt once work inside the [Vehicle Assembly Building] and nitrogen system testing are approaching completion.”