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Storm delays NASA mega-rocket takeoff yet again

After two failed take-off attempts, the Artemis mission sees its departure postponed again. In question, in storm, which should strengthen in hurricane in the coming days.

Lfate is bent on the first Artemis mission: after already two failed attempts due to technical problems, the takeoff of NASA’s new mega-rocket to the Moon will not be able to take place on Tuesday as planned, this time due to ‘a storm.

Under the threat of tropical storm Ian, currently south of Jamaica, the rocket must be prepared to be returned to its assembly building, NASA announced on Saturday.

The storm is expected to strengthen into a hurricane in the coming days and rise via the Gulf of Mexico towards Florida, where the Kennedy Space Center is located from where the rocket is to take off.

“Saturday morning, the teams decided to forego preparing for the takeoff date on Tuesday, in order to allow them to configure the systems to transport the rocket (…) into the assembly building,” NASA wrote in an article. of blogging.

The final decision to retract the rocket will not be made until Sunday, however, “to allow more data to be gathered” as the weather forecast becomes clearer, she added. If the operation takes place, it would start “late Sunday or early Monday morning”.

The current firing period, which extends until October 4, would then be missed because there would be no time to get the rocket out in time. If it is finally decided that the rocket can remain on its launch pad, a new take-off date could potentially be chosen before the end of this period.

These “incremental” decision-making helps to “preserve a launch opportunity if conditions improve,” said NASA associate administrator Jim Free.

New setback

The next firing period then extends from October 17 to 31, with one possibility of take-off per day (except from October 24 to 26 and 28). The orange and white SLS rocket, 98 meters high, can withstand wind gusts of up to 137 km/h on its launch pad.

For the complex maneuver of transporting the rocket to its assembly building, the speed of the sustained winds must not exceed 75 km/h.

After already two take-off attempts canceled at the last moment a few weeks ago, in particular because of a fuel leak during the filling of the rocket’s tanks, this new setback is unwelcome for NASA.

Back to the Moon

Artemis is its new flagship program, which is to allow humans to return to the Moon, and take the first woman and the first person of color there. Fifty years after the last mission of the Apollo program, Artémis 1 must be used to verify that the Orion capsule, at the top of the rocket, is safe to transport a crew to the Moon in the future.

For this first mission, Orion will venture up to 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable spacecraft so far. The main objective is to test the resistance of its heat shield, the largest ever built, when it returns to the Earth’s atmosphere.