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What is a 'scrub'

Artemis moon rocket launch scrubbed and what it means for the no-crew test flight

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Artemis-1 rocket launch attempt got scrubbed early Monday morning. NASA called off the highly anticipated moon rocket launch due to an engine issue.

The mission to the moon was scheduled for 8:33 a.m. Later that morning, Google Trends showed an increased interest in Internet searchers trying to understand what "scrubbed" means.

"Scrubbing" is when the team managing the rocket launch calls off the attempted launch on a specific day. In other words, liftoff is delayed until further notice despite years of preparation and planning.

Kennedy Space Center, the home of NASA at Cape Canaveral, outlines why a launch is scrubbed. The same rules apply regardless of whether it's NASA, SpaceX, or United Launch Alliance managing the mission launch. Teams say they will always err on the side of caution when launching a vehicle into space.

Reasons to scrub a launch include:

  • Inclement weather such as thunderstorms, strong upper-level winds, and cold temperatures.
  • Technical or mechanical issues with the rocket itself, spacecraft, payload, or systems on the ground.

In the case of Monday's Artemis-1 launch attempt, the scrub occurred at 8:34 a.m. due to an engine leak. The launch will be held off until the issue is investigated or resolved.

In a news briefing later Monday, NASA officials indicated a launch attempt window for Friday, Sept. 2 might be possible weather permitting. If delayed further, the next known launch attempt is on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5. Liftoff of Artemis-1 could come as late as December.

The issue with one of the four main engines stalled plans to launch the Artemis-1 and its newly designed Space Launch System rocket and uncrewed Orion Spacecraft.

A new launch date is decided by many factors including:

  • Amount of time needed to resolve the problem
  • Positioning of the spacecraft launch and desired orbit
  • Fueling

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The stage of the moon, along with forecast lighting, during reentry are also conditions to be considered when determining the new launch date.

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