NASA won’t be trying to thread the weather needle with its Artemis 1 lunar mission after all.
The space agency was targeting Tuesday (September 27) the launch of Artemis 1 Kennedy Space Center (KSC), on the Atlantic coast of Florida. That remained the plan no later than friday (September 23), though NASA officials stressed they were closely watching a Caribbean brewing storm called Tropical Depression 9.
Tropical Depression 9 intensified into Tropical Storm Ian Friday evening and is expected to intensify further. It is moving north and most models predict it will reach Florida by the middle of next week in good faith. hurricaneaccording to the National Hurricane Center.
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 Lunar Mission: Live Updates
After: 10 unusual facts about the Artemis 1 lunar mission
NASA definitely doesn’t want the multi-billion dollar Artemis 1 stack – a Space Launch System (SLS) mega rocket surmounted by a Orion space capsule — on the pad in hurricane-force winds, so that’s got the wheels spinning on a possible rollback to KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) protection. And that prep work takes a Sept. 27 launch on the table.
“During a meeting on Saturday morning, the teams decided not to prepare for Tuesday’s launch date to allow them to configure systems to roll back the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft to the ground. Vehicle Assembly Building,” NASA officials said. wrote in an update this morning (opens in a new tab) (September 24). “Engineers have deferred a final decision on the rollover until Sunday, September 25, to allow for additional data collection and analysis.”
If the team decides to keep Artemis 1 on the pad, the mission could still hit the backup launch date of October 2. However, a rollback to the cavernous VAB would almost certainly put that day out of the game as well.
Artemis 1 is NASA’s first mission Artemis programwhich aims to establish a permanent human presence on and around the moon by the end of the 2020s. Artemis 1 will send Orion on an uncrewed journey to lunar orbit and back. If all goes well with the flight, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts around the moon in 2024 and Artemis 3 will land boots near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026.
The Artemis 1 stack has been at KSC’s Launch Pad 39B since mid-August. NASA initially tried to launch the mission on August 29 and September 3, but was thwarted by technical issues each time.
The September 3 issue was a liquid hydrogen propellant leak at an interface between the SLS core stage and the rocket’s mobile launch tower. The mission team solved this problem by replacing two seals in the affected area. The effectiveness of this repair was demonstrated in a long refueling test on the pad Wednesday (September 21).
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).