Artemis I launch scrubbed, to the dismay of Space & Rocket Center spectators

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Thousands of spectators showed up at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Monday to watch the Artemis I launch. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)

Thousands of people showed up to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville at 6:30AM Monday to watch the launch of the Artemis I moon rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The energy was high and the excitement was contagious — as was the disappointment when the launch was scrubbed at roughly 7:30AM.

Despite the cancellation of the Artemis I launch Monday, I walked away from the Space & Rocket Center well aware of what the space program means to Huntsvillians.

A festival atmosphere

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Thousands of space enthusiasts of all ages were on hand early Monday morning for the Artemis I launch. (Michael Seale / Patch)

An estimated 3,000 people were on hand at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center early Monday morning and as I walked from the parking lot to the entrance, the crowd walking with me felt like the kind of crowd you might see at a concert or a music festival.

Some were dressed in NASA t-shirts or Artemis I hats, while many bought souvenirs to commemorate the event. There was an 8-foot astronaut mascot walking around the premises greeting people and getting photos taken with spectators, and fellow news media colleagues were scattered throughout the dense crowd.

There was a feeling of energized anticipation — like the kick-off to the Iron Bowl — as NASA TV announcers gave periodic updates on the status of the launch. Kids dressed in astronaut costumes and Space Camp participants entering the room to applause added to the incredible energy awaiting the launch.

This, I said to myself, is why Huntsville is the Rocket City.

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A huge astronaut mascot was on hand at the Artemis I launch party Monday. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)

The scrubbing of the launch

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The Artemis I launch was scrubbed due to inability to get the RS-25 engines on the bottom of the core stage to the proper temperature. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)

Just after 7:30AM NASA announcers delivered the news that the launch was scrubbed, as a loud, collective sigh came over the large crowd, which had been patiently waiting for the launch.

“The Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft remain in a safe and stable configuration. Launch controllers were continuing to evaluate why a bleed test to get the RS-25 engines on the bottom of the core stage to the proper temperature range for liftoff was not successful, and ran out of time in the two-hour launch window. Engineers are continuing to gather additional data.”

NASA communications specialist Rachel Kraft

According to NASA reports, engineers began troubleshooting an issue with conditioning one of the RS-25 engines (engine 3) on the bottom of the core stage. Launch controllers condition the engines by increasing pressure on the core stage tanks to bleed some of the cryogenic propellant to the engines to get them to the proper temperature range to start them.

Engine 3 was not properly being conditioned through the bleed process, reports said. Also, teams were assessing what appeared to be a crack in the thermal protection system material on one of the flanges on the core stage.

The flanges are connection joints that function like a seam on a shirt, are affixed at the top and bottom of the intertank so the two tanks can be attached to it.

This put the launch’s status in question early on, as the troubleshooting began just after 5AM. NASA officially scrubbed the launch at 7:34AM Central time.

The next available date for the Artemis I to launch will be Friday, Sept. 2.

Huntsville gets it

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I got goosebumps walking with hundreds of other folks to the Artemis I launch party this morning. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)

As I said earlier, the energy and atmosphere at the Space & Rocket Center Monday morning was electric, and I felt like I was at a sporting event or music festival. It really was a sight to see.

I wasn’t alive when the Saturn V rocket (which was proudly displayed overhead while all of us were watching the Artemis launch this morning) launched into space for the first moon landing. And I hear folks who were alive to see it broadcast talk about it still.

That was kind of what I was hoping for when I showed up this morning to this launch party. But while I did not get to see the launch, I did, however, get to see what makes Huntsville such a vital hub in the country’s space program.

Huntsville gets it. We know what this all means. And we are darn proud of it.

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Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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