On Wednesday, NASA’s new moon rocket indicated another fuel leak as engineers tested the plumbing ahead of a launch attempt as early as next week.
The hazardous hydrogen fuel began escaping at the same spot where repairs were done earlier. Engineers halted the flow and warmed the lines in hopes of plugging the leak, and proceeded with the test. But the leak persisted.
Similar Hydrogen leaks had spoiled the first two launch attempts, as well as earlier countdown tests. So much hydrogen escaped during the countdown earlier this month that it exceeded NASA’s limit by more than double. Wednesday’s leak came close to the limit, but the launch team managed to get the leak down to acceptable levels as the test continued.
After the previous delay, NASA replaced two seals. One had a tiny indentation; it measured a mere one-hundredth of an inch. NASA also altered the fueling process, easing more slowly into the loading of the super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen. After Wednesday’s leak appeared, the launch team moved even more slowly to subject the plumbing to even less stress.