NASA has canceled the scheduled launch on Tuesday of its historic unmanned mission to the moon due to a tropical storm.
NASA has canceled the scheduled launch on Tuesday of its historic unmanned mission to the moon due to a tropical storm expected to increase as it approaches Florida.
After two previously canceled launch attempts, NASA is considering returning the Artemis 1 mission rocket to its staging area under threat of extreme weather.
“NASA is waiving a launch opportunity… and is preparing to roll back (from the launch pad) while continuing to review the weather forecast related to Tropical Storm Ian,” it said on Saturday.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Ian will “step up quickly” over the weekend as it heads toward Florida, home of the Kennedy Space Center, from which the rocket will be launched.
Currently south of Jamaica, the storm is expected to approach Florida’s west coast early next week “with or near major hurricane strength,” threatening storm surge, flooding and hurricane strength across much of the state, the NHC said.
On the launch pad, the giant orange-and-white Space Launch System (SLS) rocket can withstand wind gusts of up to 137 kilometers (85 miles) per hour. But if it needs to be sheltered, the current launch window, which runs until October 4, will be missed.
A decision on whether to roll the rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building will be made by the Artemis 1 team on Sunday, “to allow for additional data collection and analysis,” with the operation, if necessary, running late on Sunday or Monday from starts tomorrow, NASA said.
Jim Free, associate administrator of the Directorate for Exploration Systems Development, said on Twitter that a “step-by-step approach” to the decision to rollback “maintains a launch probability as conditions improve,” indicating a launch date before October 5 is still on the horizon. used to be. the table.
If not, the next launch window will run from October 17 to 31, with one takeoff opportunity per day, except October 24-26 and 28.
The Artemis 1 space mission hopes to test the SLS, as well as the unmanned Orion capsule on it, in preparation for future lunar journeys with people on board.
Artemis is named after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, after whom the first lunar missions were named.
Unlike the Apollo missions, which sent only white men to the moon between 1969 and 1972, Artemis missions will see the first person of color and the first woman set foot on the lunar surface.
A successful Artemis 1 mission would be a huge relief for the US space agency, after years of delays and cost overruns.
But another setback would be a blow to NASA, after two previous launch attempts were scrapped when the rocket experienced technical problems, including a fuel leak.
The cost of the Artemis program is estimated to be $93 billion by 2025, with the first four missions costing a staggering $4.1 billion each, according to a government audit.