WASHINGTON – Just days after NASA said it was ready to conduct a second static fire test at the main stage of the space launch system, the agency announced on February 22 that the test would be postponed due to a valve problem.
NASA said it was postponing the Green Run static fire test, which was scheduled for Feb. 25, after finding a problem with one of eight valves called “pre-valves” connected to the four main RS-25 engines on stage. The valve that delivers liquid oxygen “did not work properly,” a NASA statement said, but did not explain the problem.
Engineers identified the problem during weekend test preparation. NASA said it would work with Boeing, the main contractor in the main phase, to “identify the way forward in the coming days and reschedule the hot fire test,”
This isn’t the first time a valve problem has delayed testing Green Run in the main stage. In November, NASA reported a problem with a liquid hydrogen valve in the ground stage, which required workers to design a special tool to repair the valve on the test bench. This, along with the effects of a tropical storm that passed from the Stenis Space Center in late October, delayed by a few weeks the wet dress rehearsal on the stage, where the stage is refueled and goes through a countdown.
The announcement of the latest delay came just three days after NASA and industry officials held a briefing expressing confidence that they were ready to perform a static fire test on February 25. time at the Mississippi test site.
“The team is working very hard on some difficult situations. We’re on a pretty good path to making the 25th, “said John Shannon, vice president and SLS program manager at Boeing, during the briefing.
At the same briefing, NASA officials said they remained cautiously optimistic that the SLS could launch its first launch of the Artemis 1 mission, an unlocked test flight of the Orion spacecraft, before the end of the year despite long delays in the Green Run test campaign. Tom Whitmeier, deputy associate administrator for developing research systems at NASA headquarters, said the mission could begin immediately in October if all goes well, then acknowledged there would likely be problems along the way.
“First of all, we really need to leave this hot fire behind,” he said, referring to the Green Run static fire test. “This is the most important thing we have in front of us.”