Storm Nicole is expected to hit Florida mid-week. A weather situation that forces NASA to postpone the takeoff of Artemis 1.
The curse continues for the Artemis 1 space mission: the takeoff of the new NASA rocket for the Moon has been postponed again, to Wednesday, November 16 at the earliest, because of the storm Nicole which should hit Florida in the middle of week, NASA announced on Tuesday, November 8.
Liftoff had so far been scheduled in less than a week, on November 14, but NASA said in a statement that it wanted to allow its employees to respond “to the needs of their familiesin the face of this storm, which should have intensified into a hurricane at the time of landfall. After his passage, NASA will also need “enough logistics timeto return the rocket to its launch configuration, she added.
On November 16, the shooting window will open at 01:04 a.m. local time (06:04 GMT), but this new date is suspended at “safe conditions for employees to return to work, as well as inspections after the storm has passed“Said NASA. If necessary, another fallback date had previously been set, on November 19. NASA also said on Tuesday that it was working on possible “additional launch opportunities“.
The storm, which is currently over the Atlantic Ocean, is expected to develop into a hurricane Wednesday near the Bahamas, before reaching Florida overnight Wednesday or Thursday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). . A hurricane alert was issued on the coast in the Kennedy Space Center area, where the rocket is on its launch pad.
Named SLS, it is designed to withstand winds of 74.4 knots, or approximately 137 km/h. “Current forecasts predict that the greatest risks on the launch pad are high winds, which are not expected to exceed the design of SLS“, reassured NASA. “The rocket is designed to withstand heavy rain.“Tuesday afternoon, the sustained winds of Nicole reached “100 km/h, with higher gusts“, according to the NHC. And the storm is expected to strengthen further.
This summer, two takeoff attempts were canceled at the last moment, due to technical problems when filling the rocket’s tanks with fuel. Then the 98-meter-high machine had to be returned to its assembly building at the end of September, a few kilometers away, to be protected from another hurricane, Ian.
The value of the rocket estimated at several billion dollars
The rocket, whose value is estimated at several billion dollars, has only been back on its launch pad for a few days. The Artemis 1 test mission, without an astronaut on board, is to mark the very first flight of the major American program back to the Moon.
The Artemis program should make it possible to take the first woman and the first person of color to the Moon, in 2025 at the earliest. NASA also wants to establish a lasting human presence there, including the construction of a space station in orbit around the Moon. For the American space agency, this is a step that should then allow a first trip to Mars.
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