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NASA pushes back Artemis I moon rocket launch after glitch

Space is hard and delays happen.

slsflag
This patriotic view shows an American flag with the SLS rocket under assembly at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
NASA/Frank Michaux

Getting to the moon isn't easy. NASA is looking to kick off a new era of moon exploration in earnest with the launch of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, but a technical issue means takeoff will likely have to wait a little longer.  

NASA had been targeting a February 2022 launch, but is now looking into launch opportunities in March and April. The massive Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule are all stacked up, but testing revealed an issue with a flight controller for one of the rocket's engines. 

"The flight controller works as the 'brain' for each RS-25 engine, communicating with the SLS rocket to provide precision control of the engine as well as internal health diagnostics," NASA explained in a statement on Friday. One of the controller's two channels was not powering up consistently. 

The controller had worked fine during earlier testing, but NASA decided to replace it entirely while investigating what might have caused the glitch to occur. NASA continues to test and prepare the rocket system and capsule, an effort that will lead to a "wet" dress rehearsal that includes loading propellant. The agency will set a firmer launch date after completing a successful rehearsal.

Artemis I will take a trip around the moon to make sure everything works with SLS and Orion before sending humans into space in the Artemis II mission. The delay isn't surprising. Getting into space at all is challenging enough. NASA wants to get it right with a new spacecraft and a new rocket system it says will be the most powerful in the world.

When it does finally take off, SLS promises to be spectacular. For a small peek at what to expect, check out this dramatic SLS engine test from earlier in 2021.