NASA again delays launch of moon rocket — Analysis

A tropical storm is moving toward Florida and the US Space Agency has delayed its Artemis 1 mission.

NASA delayed its launch of the Artemis 1 moon rocket because of a approaching tropical storm. The hurricane is expected to intensify into a severe hurricane and make landfall next week in Florida.

Kennedy Space Center officials near Cape Canaveral in Florida announced their decision Saturday. “To protect our employees and the integrated stack, we will begin configuring the vehicle to roll back,” said Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development.

NASA may reschedule the liftoff for Oct. 2 if it is possible to leave the rocket on the launchpad during severe weather. However, NASA must fall back to another window of opportunity should the SLS need to be brought back to Vehicle Assembly Building. Artemis 1 mission managers are expected to make a decision on Sunday, after considering updated forecasts for the wind speeds that Ian will bring to Florida’s eastern coast.

As soon as Tuesday night tropical-storm force winds could hit central Florida. By that time Ian will be heading through the eastern Gulf of Mexico in a major hurricane. The storm is expected to weaken, though retain hurricane status, before slamming into Florida’s western coast on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on how far north it tracks before making landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

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The launch site can be found on the other coast but high winds are likely to affect the peninsula. According to reports, the rocket stack is capable of withstand winds as high as 85 miles an hour and can remain on the launch site. NASA describes the SLS as being one of NASA’s most powerful rockets, with upwards to 8.8 million pounds thrust.

Hydrogen leaks forced the cancellation of two other attempts to launch the unmanned Artemis 1 spacecraft. According to plans, the SLS would propel Orion into lunar orbit. Once the system is proven, including the Orion’s high-speed re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, NASA aims to launch a manned mission to orbit the moon in 2024 and the following year to achieve its first crewed moon landing since 1972.

NASA may have to return the rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building if conditions are not favorable for launch. The next window with potential favorable conditions will be October 17-October 31.

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