An impending hurricane once again forces NASA’s big lunar mission off the launch pad.
Hurricane Ian, which is making landfall in Florida on Thursday (September 29), caused Nasa decide to back off Artemis 1 the mission’s Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket sheltered from the launch pad, the agency said via a blog post (opens in a new tab) Monday (September 26).
Artemis 1 was to take off for the moon October 2, although it has already been delayed several times; Ian had already forced a delay of an attempt scheduled for Tuesday (September 27). A new launch date has not yet been set.
The agency will begin moving the massive SLS rocket and the uncrewed Orion spacecraft to 11 p.m. EDT Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday, September 27). Live coverage of the 8-10 a.m. trip will be available here on Space.com, via NASA television (opens in a new tab), as well as on the NASA website, app and social media.
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Artemis 1 will then weather the storm in NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building; the winds should reach at least 76 mph (opens in a new tab) (122 km/h), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). After the storm, NASA said a slip until at least mid-October was likely.
“The decision allows time for employees to meet the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system,” NASA wrote in the blog post. “The time of the first move is also based on the best forecast conditions for the rollback to meet the weather criteria for the move.”
NASA officials made the decision using data from NOAA, the US Space Force (which manages the launch range surrounding the agency’s Kennedy Space Center) and the National Hurricane Center.
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Artemis I Update: NASA will return the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Monday, September 26. The first move is scheduled for 11 p.m. EDT. MORE: https://t.co/817ahBkTqy pic.twitter.com/3xJ0O5pnPNSeptember 26, 2022
This will be Artemis 1’s third stay in the VAB. The mission was there for initial integration, then deployed to the pad on June 6 for an initial refueling test. Following many problems with the test June 20, the big stack canceled again July 2 to the VAB for more integration, then returned to the launch pad August 16 and 17, where several launch dates have since passed due to weather or technical issues. (The agency also successfully completed another refueling test last week.)
NASA officials said the system is rated for two more rollbacks to the VAB, so after this hurricane decision, it looks like the stack will need to be launched after it returns to the launch pad. The Artemis 1 mission calls for Orion to circle the moon and return for a mission of approximately 40 days, as a shakedown cruise in front of the crew Artemis 2 at the earliest in 2024.