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SLS rocket rolled back to VAB

NASA’s SLS rocket has now been rolled back to the vehicle assembly building (VAB) so that engineers can assess the various problems that prevented the agency from completing a full dress rehearsal countdown last week.

Over the next several days, the team will extend the work platforms to allow access to SLS and Orion. In the coming weeks, teams will work on replacing a faulty upper stage check valve and a small leak within the tail service mast umbilical ground plate housing, and perform additional checkouts before returning to the launch pad for the next wet dress rehearsal attempt.

More details about these problems can be found here.

The bottom line is that these engineering fixes are certain to take at least two months to fix. Then NASA must decide what next to do. If it decides to redo the dress rehearsal countdown, then an actual launch cannot happen sooner than July, and only if they proceed directly to launch after completing the rehearsal. If the rocket is rolled back to the VAB after the next rehearsal the launch will be delayed further, into August or September.

And all that assumes the next rehearsal goes perfect, something that seems unlikely based on what has happened so far.

The delays are a problem because the first stage’s two strap-on solid rocket boosters are already well past their “use-by” date of January ’22. The possibility that NASA will have to unstack this rocket and replace these boosters is growing. If that happens the launch cannot occur sooner than early ’23, if then.

Worse, these delays cause all other subsequent SLS launches to be delayed as well. Right now the manned mission to the Moon, presently scheduled for ’25, is likely going to be pushed back to ’26.

Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


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  • geoffc

    I think their biggest issue will be coming up with believable excuses for delaying Starship so SLS launches first.

    At some point even the dimmest bulb will figure it out if they delay SLS till the fall…

  • David Eastman

    “Over the next several days, the team will extend the work platforms to allow access to SLS and Orion.” That really says so much. Just extending the platforms out from the various gantries in the VAB to get access to the rocket will take SEVERAL DAYS.

  • pawn

    I hope they have better luck finding the hydrogen leak than they had in 1990. What a mess that was. Could only test at the Pad when it was cleared. It was over 30 years ago. Does anyone recall the root cause of those leaks?

  • Ray Van Dune

    “Over the next several days, the team will extend the work platforms to allow access to SLS and Orion.”

    Yes David Eastman, my first thought – wow they’re really going all out! Next they’ll lock them in position. Then mandatory stand down for Diversity Dialog Day…

  • Jay

    Yes, funny you mention it, some guy also wrote about it 25 years later. Great photo of both Atlantis and Columbia on the site.
    His quote: “Incorrect torqueing of bolts around the flange interface between the tank and the orbiter caused the Atlantis mishap,” Flight International told its readers on 8 August. “The Columbia leak was caused by a faulty seal in the drive mechanism used to close the flapper valve in the disconnect.”

  • pawn


    From what I heard from someone on Schwinghamer’s tiger team, the torqueing was not the real reason for the leaks. The seals from Parker-Hannifin were mechanically out of spec and contaminated. It had to do with PH out-sourcing the seals because they were such a low volume custom part and the second party not having the proper drawings. Not sure if it’s the truth but that is what I was told “off the record”.

    I was fishing for some corroboration in my first post. If it’ s true it was a massive screw-up.

  • Richard M

    Eric Berger has two NASA sources now saying it won’t be any earlier than August.

    That sounds optimistic to me, but maybe they’ll get lucky. Or just roll the dice.

    I feel a bit sorry for the engineers and technicians genuinely working their tails off to make this thing launch (whatever their personal misgivings) – they do exist.

  • Jay

    Wow! I have not heard that one before. I will have to read up on that.

    I do not know if you have watched the TV series “For All Mankind”, but there was an accident with one of the modified Saturn V rockets with SRBs that blew up on the pad, and it was traced back to an unqualified sub-contractor. I bet the writers got their idea for that plot from this incident.

  • Col Beausabre

    I’m feeling that there is more and more pressure to “launch the darn thing” like Challenger. I sure hope I’m wrong

  • Jeff Wright

    Booster 7 certainly isn’t going anywhere. The SLS core seems sound enough. We will see if it is.

  • pawn

    Col B,

    NASA has it’s reputation on the line here, similar to the Webb telescope.

    The pressure to launch Challenger was “different”, shall we say.

    IMHO the best thing for the future of Man in Space, as I call it, is this is the last one, one way or another.

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