NASA reabastece su cohete lunar, en busca de fugas

nasa reabastece su cohete lunar, en busca de fugas

El cohete lunar de la NASA en la plataforma Pad 39B del Centro Espacial Kennedy, en Florida, el 6 de septiembre de 2022. (John Raoux / Associated Press)

CABO CAÑAVERAL, Florida, EE.UU. (AP) — La NASA llenó el miércoles el tanque de combustible de su cohete lunar, como parte de una prueba para detectar fugas antes de intentar un lanzamiento la siguiente semana.

La prueba durará todo el día y determinará si el cohete de 98 metros (322 pies) está listo para su prueba de vuelo, una misión a la órbita lunar que llevará maniquíes en lugar de astronautas.

Los jefes de la misión quieren verificar las reparaciones hechas a todas las fugas de hidrógeno que arruinaron los dos primeros intentos de lanzamiento, así como conteos regresivos previos. Durante un conteo regresivo a inicios de mes, una fuga de hidrógeno dejó escapar más del doble permitido por la NASA.

La agencia espacial reemplazó dos sellos después del retraso más reciente. Uno de ellos tenía una hendidura menor.

“El equipo está realmente emocionado de llevar a cabo esta prueba. Todos han estado trabajando duro estos últimos días”, declaró el ingeniero de la NASA Wes Mosedale desde el Control de Lanzamiento del Centro Espacial Kennedy.

El objetivo del miércoles es bombear casi 4 millones de litros (1 millón de galones de combustible) al cohete, con nada de fugas o algunas tolerables. En caso de superar la prueba, la NASA podría intentar un nuevo lanzamiento el martes.

Una vez lanzada, la cápsula que porta el cohete será la primera en orbitar la Luna en 50 años. La misión de 4.100 millones de dólares debería durar más de cinco semanas y terminar con un amarizaje en el Pacífico. En un segundo vuelo de prueba, programado para 2024, podría haber astronautas a bordo que darán la vuelta a la Luna. En la tercera misión, prevista para 2025, un par de astronautas descenderán en la Luna.

El cohete Space Launch System de la NASA es más poderoso que el Saturn V que llevó a los astronautas de las misiones Apolo a la Luna en las décadas de 1960 y 1970. Los reactores y propulsores eran de transbordadores espaciales ahora retirados. Al igual que ahora, la NASA batalló con fugas de hidrógeno en la época del transbordador, especialmente en la década de 1990.

Este artículo fue publicado por primera vez en Los Angeles Times en Español.

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