First launch of NASA’s Artemis lunar rocket slips to November 16 – Spaceflight Now

NASA Space Launch System moon rocket on pad 39B. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA announced on Tuesday that the launch of its Artemis 1 lunar rocket would be delayed from Nov. 14 to Nov. 16 at the earliest, as approaching Tropical Storm Nicole disrupts upstream processing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The space agency is keeping the moon rocket at Launch Complex 39B as Tropical Storm Nicole, which is expected to be a hurricane by Wednesday, heads for Florida’s east coast. But NASA officials decided on Tuesday to delay the launch of the long-delayed Artemis 1 mission until Wednesday, Nov. 16, a two-day delay from the previous target launch date.

The Nov. 16 launch date is “pending safe conditions for employees to return to work, as well as post-storm inspections,” NASA said in a statement. “Adjusting the target launch date will allow the workforce to meet the needs of their families and homes, and provide ample logistical time to return to launch status after the storm.”

NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket is being prepared for its next launch attempt to begin a long-delayed unmanned test flight with NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The capsule will separate from the rocket and enter orbit around the moon for a series of checks before the agency commits to flying astronauts on the next SLS/Orion mission.

The two-hour launch window on Wednesday, November 16 opens at 1:04 a.m. EST (06:04 GMT). NASA has a backup launch opportunity on Nov. 19, and Artemis 1’s current launch window extends through Nov. 27. The launch period is determined by several factors, including the position of the moon in its orbit around the Earth and the limits of the mission trajectory to ensure the Orion spacecraft crashes into the Pacific Ocean at the daylight at the end of the mission.

If the Artemis 1 mission takes off on November 16, the Orion spacecraft would return to Earth and parachute into the Pacific Ocean on Friday, December 11.

NASA rolled the 322-foot-tall (98-meter) Artemis 1 lunar rocket onto the launch pad on Friday after bringing it back to the Vehicle Assembly Building in late September for shelter from the hurricane Ian. Pad 39B does not have a movable gantry to protect the SLS moon rocket, but the giant vehicle is designed to withstand wind gusts of up to 85 mph, or 74 knots, at 60 feet from the facility. launch.

“Based on forecast weather conditions and pre-storm backup options, the agency determined Sunday evening that the safest option for launch hardware was to keep the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft secure. on the pad.”

“Current forecasts predict that the greatest hazards on the pad are high winds that are not expected to exceed the SLS design,” NASA said in a statement. “The rocket is designed to withstand heavy rain on the launch pad and the spacecraft’s hatches have been secured to prevent water intrusion.”

The SLS moon rocket is the most powerful launch vehicle ever developed by NASA, with four main engines and two strap thrusters generating 8.8 million pounds at liftoff. NASA spent a decade and more than $20 billion developing and testing the rocket before its first flight on the Artemis 1 mission.

“In anticipation of the storm, crews powered off the Orion spacecraft, SLS core stage, interim cryogenic propulsion stage, and boosters,” NASA said. “Engineers also installed a hard cover over the launch abort system window, retracted and secured the crew access arm on the mobile launcher, and configured the environmental control system settings on the spacecraft and rocket parts. Teams are also securing nearby equipment and carrying out visits to detect potential debris in the area.

The Kennedy Space Center is currently in a HURCON (Hurricane Condition) III state, NASA said. This phase of storm preparations involves securing facilities, assets and equipment at the space center, as well as briefing and deploying the team of essential personnel who will remain on base during the storm to monitor the conditions and the Artemis 1 lunar rocket at the launch pad.

Once the storm passes, employees will return to Kennedy Space Center for tours and inspections of the rocket and spacecraft at pad 39B. If the SLS moon rocket and Orion capsule weathered the storm well, NASA could begin a two-day countdown on Nov. 14 to target the Artemis 1 mission’s liftoff on Nov. 16.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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