NASA postpones Artemis 1 moon rocket launch due to engine problem

ITV News' Alex Iszatt explains how engine problems scuppered Nasa's launch of the first rocket in its Artemis project

Nasa’s Artemis 1 moon rocket launch has been postponed due to a problem with one of the engines.

The first opportunity for the next launch attempt will be September 2, just before 1pm BST, depending on how the engine issue develops.

The 98m Space Launch System rocket was set to lift off on Monday with three test dummies aboard on its first flight.

It was part of a mission to propel a capsule into orbit around the moon which attracted scores of people to watch the eagerly anticipated launch.

Spectators waited in an area near the Saturn V visitor centre in Florida for the Artemis 1 mission rocket to launch. Credit: AP

The rocket had been due to take off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during a two-hour window after 1.33pm, but was called off by the launch director moments before. The space agency said: “Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson has called a scrub of the attempt of the launch of Artemis 1. “The issue that came up was an engine bleed which couldn’t be remedied but the rocket is currently in a stable configuration. “It was mostly tanked but not completely tanked. “Engineers are now working on a plan to continue gathering data about this particular engine and the bleed that didn’t work out.”

The space agency added that the launch was no longer happening "as teams work through an issue with an engine bleed".

"Teams will continue to gather data, and we will keep you posted on the timing of the next launch attempt," Nasa tweeted.

The uncrewed flight was meant to mark the next chapter in putting humans back on the Moon, and was the first in Nasa’s Artemis programme.

Photographers place remote cameras near the new moon rocket. Credit: AP

There will be astronauts on board for subsequent missions, with the first crewed flight into space scheduled for 2024.

Nasa hopes that by the following year it will be able to send astronauts back to the lunar surface for the first time in over 50 years.

The Artemis 1 mission will see the first launch of the new 322ft (98m) tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which the agency says is the world’s most powerful rocket to date.

It will take the Orion capsule, powered by the Airbus-built European Service Module (ESM), into the Moon’s orbit.

Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module Eagle during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Credit: AP via NASA

Airbus engineer Sian Cleaver, an industrial manager for the ESM, said the last time humans went to the Moon it was about proving that it could be done, whereas the new mission is about proving people can go there for longer and more sustainably.

It will also assess whether some infrastructure can be built on and around the Moon, allowing humans to survive on another planetary body.

The mission duration is 42 days, 3 hours, 20 minutes, and in total the capsule will travel 1.3 million miles, before splashing down on October 10.

The UK is part of the Artemis programme, making contributions to the Lunar Gateway – a space station currently in development with the European Space Agency – working alongside the US, Europe, Canada and Japan.

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