Launch day has finally arrived for the uncrewed Artemis I mission to liftoff on a journey around the moon.
It’s a sight to behold as the 322-foot-tall (98-foot-tall) stack, consisting of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, glows in the early morning darkness at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The stack is sitting on historic Launchpad 39B, where Apollo 10 and shuttle missions previously lifted off. Tune in to NASA’s website and TV channel to watch the final preparations and witness the launch.
Weather conditions remain 80% favorable for a launch at the beginning of a window that opens at 8:33 a.m. and closes at 10:33 a.m. ET, according to the latest forecast.
But several issues have cropped up since the rocket began fueling after midnight. The Artemis team is evaluating the delays to determine how it impacts the launch.
Offshore storms with the potential for lightning prevented the team from beginning the fueling process, due to start at midnight, for about an hour.
The hold was lifted at 1:13 a.m. ET, and the tanking process began to load the rocket’s core stage with supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
The team stopped filling the tank with liquid hydrogen twice due to an initial leak as well as a pressure spike, but tanking resumed for the core stage and began for the upper stage, or the interim cryogenic propulsion stage.
Now, the launch team has discovered an issue with an engine bleed in one of the rocket’s four engines and are working to reconfigure it. So far, their efforts haven’t been effective.
During engine bleeds, hydrogen is cycled through the engine to condition it for launch. Three of the four engines are performing as expected, but engine #3 is experiencing an issue.
The team also discovered a line of frost on the inner stage flange. At first, engineers thought the frost may indicate the presence of a crack in the tank, but it turned out to be a crack in the external foam. The team shared that the issue has been resolved since the foam crack does not indicate a leak.
Engineers are also working to find out what has caused an 11-minute delay in communications between the Orion spacecraft and ground systems. The issue could impact the beginning of terminal count, or the countdown that begins when 10 minutes remain on the clock before liftoff. But engineers feel good about figuring out the issue ahead of the terminal count, according to NASA.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are expected to visit Kennedy Space Center Monday.
Appearances by celebrities like Jack Black, Chris Evans and Keke Palmer and performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock and “America the Beautiful” by The Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma are also part of the program.
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