NASA’s historic Artemis I moon rocket launch is postponed for second time

NASA engineers for a second time scrubbed the launch of the Artemis I rocket that was set to take off for the moon in a historic mission on Saturday afternoon.

The moon rocket was set to launch into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., however, a hazardous fuel leak halted the attempted test flight, which had a two-hour launch window starting at 2:17 p.m. ET.

Around 11:20 a.m., NASA said the mission “has been postponed. Teams attempted to fix an issue related to a leak in the hardware transferring fuel into the rocket, but were unsuccessful.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said of the launch: "We’ll go when it’s ready. We don’t go until then. And especially now, on a test flight, because we’re gonna stress this and test it and test that heat shield and make sure it’s right before we put four humans up on the top of it."

"This is part of the space business," he said. "This is part of our space program. Be ready for the scrubs."

It's unclear when the next launch attempt will be, but Nelson explained that if program officials decide to roll Artemis back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), then the next launch attempt could be in mid-October.

It was the second time the flight was called off. Last Monday, NASA attempted to launch the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket into space, but was stopped by a bad engine sensor and leaking fuel.

NASA's next-generation moon rocket, the Space Launch System.
NASA's next-generation moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) with the Orion crew capsule perched on top, stands on launch complex 39B before the mission was postponed on Saturday morning. (Steve Nesius/Reuters)

The mission, named Artemis I, is set to be a 238,000-mile test flight for a new Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket. After orbiting the Earth and harnessing its gravitational pull, Orion will travel at speeds of over 9,000 feet per second, setting the stage for astronauts to venture farther beyond the Earth than previously attempted.

With an estimated cost of $93 billion by the end of 2025, the Artemis program hopes to return astronauts to the moon's surface by 2026 and establish a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade.

NASA is targeting the south pole of the moon, where ice and other resources may be present, and may help astronauts in the future.

NASA on Monday scrubbed the new moon rocket’s mission after “launch controllers were unable to chill down the four RS-25 engines.” The engine troubles followed a thunderstorm on Saturday that saw five lightning strikes hit the lightning-protection towers that surround the space center.

With three test dummies aboard, NASA hoped the mission — after years of setbacks — would finally launch on Saturday.