March 20, 2023
NASA's Moon Rocket Will Have to Escape the Storm as a Potential Hurricane Approaches

NASA’s Moon Rocket Will Have to Escape the Storm as a Potential Hurricane Approaches

SLS at the Kennedy launch pad on November 4.

SLS at the Kennedy launch pad on November 4.
Photo: NASA

Monday, November 14 was supposed to be the day the Space Launch System finally flew, but a season finale The tropical storm forced NASA to cancel the launch, but luckily not by much. The space agency chose to leave the SLS on the launch pad, saying it is designed to withstand storms of this size.

I’m in the Eastern Time Zone so I was prepared to stay up late Sunday to watch Monday morning Artemis 1 launch, but now it looks like I’ll have to stay up late Tuesday to watch—hopefully—a very early Wednesday morning. I have a nascent tropical storm named Nicole to thank for this disruption to my schedule. Of course, the people on the ground at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, who are bat-under-the-hatch, have it worse. That said, they won’t be taking the rocket back to the garage for shelter, which means the SLS will have to ride out the storm.

NASA is recently was announced The two-hour launch window opens at 1:04 AM. ET on November 16. It’s not my favorite time to be awake (at least, not in the middle of the week), but I wouldn’t miss this event for the world. The 321-foot-tall (98-meter) SLS rocket has been in the works since 2011, resulting in quite a long wait. SLS is key for NASA Artemis program, which seeks a sustainable and lasting return to the lunar environment. A backup The release opportunity is available on Saturday 19 November.

More on this story: Artemis 1: To Boldly Go where four RS-25 engines have gone many times before

If all goes as planned, SLS will launch an unmanned Orion spacecraft on a 25-day trip to the Moon and back, with a splashdown in the Pacific on Friday, December 11. The caveat is that Nicole will make it through this week without causing any damage to Kennedy and the SLS launch infrastructure. Wednesday’s planned launch is “pending safe conditions for employees to return to work, as well as inspections after the storm passes,” NASA says.

The Kennedy Space Center is currently in HURCON II status as a result of the storm. It was preceded by the HURCON III operation, in which personnel secured facilities, property and equipment and also organized a walkout team. NASA entered HURCON II at 2:00 A.M. ET this morning, requiring non-essential Kennedy personnel to stay home. The ride-out team will remain and monitor conditions at the facility, including the condition of SLS and Orion.

Image for article titled NASA's Moon Rocket Will Have to Escape Storm as Potential Hurricane Approaches

Graphic: NOAA

Despite the coming storm, NASA will not return SLS to the Vehicle Assembly Building for shelter, as it did in late September when Hurricane Ian threatened the Florida peninsula. The SLS can withstand sustained winds of up to 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour), and current forecasts call for less. But in was foreseen sustained winds of 70 mph (113 km/h), ie slightly less. NASA better hope it made the right decision by leaving the $4.1 billion rocket on the launch pad as a potential hurricane sweeps past.

That said, ground teams prepared for the storm. Orion, the SLS core stage, the intermediate propulsion stage and the the amplifiers are all turned off. “Engineers have also installed a hard cover over the launch abort system window, retracted and secured the crew access arm to the mobile launcher, and configured the settings for the environmental control system on the spacecraft and rocket components,” the space agency said. . Ground teams ensured all nearby hardware was secured while also removing potential debris in the area of ​​the jumbo missile. NASA says the SLS can also handle heavy rain.

Once Nicole passes, ground teams will conduct inspections of both the facility and the missile to confirm that everything is unusable. Assuming that’s the case, the launch team can resume normal operations and prepare for Wednesday’s launch attempt. Wednesday again too early launch attempt. My coffee maker and I will be ready.

More: NASA pushes first operational Boeing Starliner mission to 2024

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