Nasa Artemis 1 Moon rocket launch postponed after engine issue

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

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 BST, 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.”

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

The agency’s administrator, Bill Nelson, said that rocket launch delays are “just part of the space business” in response to the postponement of the Artemis 1 test flight mission on Monday.

Speaking on Nasa’s official channel from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Mr Nelson said: “We don’t launch until it’s right, and in fact they’ve got a problem with the gases going on the engine bleed on one engine.

“I think it’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all those things have to work, and you don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go.

“I have some personal experience in the crew that I participated in the 24th flight of the space shuttle, we scrubbed four times, and the fifth try was a flawless mission.

“We know had we launched on any one of those scrubs, it wouldn’t have been a good day.

“This is just part of the space business and it’s part of particularly a test flight, we are stressing and testing this rocket and a space craft in a way that you would never do it with a human crew on board, that’s the purpose of a test flight.”

The unmanned flight marks the next chapter in putting humans back on the Moon, and is 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.

The delayed test flight this year should see the first launch of the new 322ft (98m) tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, 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.

Humans last reached the Moon some 50 years ago, and the latest mission is about proving people can make longer and more sustainable trips there.

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 and 20 minutes, and in total it will travel 1.3 million miles.

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.

The Artemis mission will be tracked in the UK from Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall.