NASA: Artemis Moon rocket second launch attempt called off after fuel leak

Now NASA has the challenge of ensuring the Artemis programme matches the stunning success of its unmanned missions, ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reports

The launch of NASA's most powerful ever rocket has been postponed for the second time in a week after a dangerous fuel leak.

The 98m Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, designed to send astronauts back to the Moon after an absence of 50 years, was set to lift off with test dummies aboard on its first flight on Saturday.

But it was delayed after numerous unsuccessful attempts by technicians to fix the leak of super-cooled liquid hydrogen propellant being pumped into the vehicle's core-stage fuel tanks.

"The #Artemis I mission to the Moon has been postponed," the space agency tweeted, to the disappointment of observers keen to watch the historic take-off.

"Teams attempted to fix an issue related to a leak in the hardware transferring fuel into the rocket, but were unsuccessful."

It was not immediately clear if NASA would be able to make launchpad corrections quickly enough for its next backup launch date of Monday.

Saturday's bid to despatch the SLS rocket had been scheduled for the start of a two-hour window beginning at 14:17 local time (19:17 BST).

Saturday's fuel leak problem is separate from the engine cooling issue that led to the initial postponement of the first launch attempt last Monday.

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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.

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 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, into the Moon’s orbit.