CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – NASA delayed the debut of its towering moon rocket Monday after issues emerged during the countdown, postponing the launch from the Kennedy Space Center.
The agency was slated to launch its Artemis I mission during a two-hour-long launch window that opened at 8:33 a.m. ET, sending the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule on a more than month-long journey around the moon.
But NASA was unable to resolve a temperature problem identified with one of the four liquid-fueled engines, discovered with under two hours to go in the countdown.
In a blog post, NASA said that its “engineers are looking at options to gather as much data as possible.”
“The Artemis I rocket and spacecraft are in a stable, safe condition,” NASA said.
NASA on Monday also found a hydrogen leak in the engines and a crack in the thermal protection system material that protects the rocket’s core — though those issues were resolved before the planned launch window.
The agency has backup launch dates scheduled for Sept. 2 and Sept. 5, although whether the issues will be resolved before then is yet unknown.
The uncrewed Artemis I launch marks the debut of the most powerful rocket ever assembled and kicks off NASA’s long-awaited return to the moon’s surface. It’s the first mission in NASA’s Artemis lunar program, which is expected to land the agency’s astronauts on the moon by its third mission in 2025.
While Artemis I will not carry astronauts, nor land on the moon, the mission is critical to demonstrating that NASA’s monster rocket and deep space capsule can deliver on their promised abilities. Artemis I has been delayed for years, with the program running billions over budget.