NASA pulls out of Tuesday’s Artemis I launch, delaying rollback decision

With the looming threat of what is expected to be Hurricane Ian, NASA finally threw in the towel on Saturday for an attempted launch Tuesday of its Artemis I mission to the moon from Kennedy Space Center.

On Sunday, officials said they would wait longer before deciding whether to roll back the massive 5.75 million-pound, 322-foot-tall combination of a Space Launch System rocket, a mobile launcher and an Orion spacecraft for vehicle security. Assembly building.

In an update posted to NASA’s website Sunday evening, that decision won’t come until Monday, and a potential rollback won’t begin until Monday or early Tuesday.

“Officials met Sunday evening to review the latest information on the storm from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Space Force and the National Hurricane Center and decided to meet again on Monday to allow for data collection. overnight before deciding when to roll back. NASA continues to put its people first while protecting the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft system,” the update reads.

Initially, NASA had indicated that a rollback could potentially begin Sunday evening or early Monday.

With each forecast update, the effects of the storm’s arrival are further and further away from the Space Coast. Initial forecasts indicated the Space Coast could experience tropical storm-force winds Tuesday morning, around the same time NASA intended to launch.

What is currently Tropical Storm Ian located in the central Caribbean is expected to become a hurricane Sunday evening or Monday morning and then move north over Cuba in the Gulf of Mexico. Its center is expected to be more than 100 miles off the southwest coast of Florida on Wednesday with potential landfall anywhere from the Panhandle to Fort Myers as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 105 mph until Friday.

Consensus tracks as of 11 a.m. Sunday with the center of the storm targeting the big bend south of Tallahassee.

“The agency is taking a staged approach to its decision-making process to enable the agency to protect its employees by deploying safely in time to meet the needs of their families while protecting the possibility of move forward with another launch opportunity in the current window if the weather forecast improves,” the initial statement read on Saturday.

During a Friday briefing, mission managers noted that the rocket was certified to withstand sustained winds of 85 mph on the launch pad. A restoration would take about three days to prepare the gear for travel and make the slow 4-mile journey to the VAB from Launch Pad 39-B. Previously, officials said rolls to and from the VAB can put more stress on the hardware, so if they can, it’s best to stay on the launch pad.

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“We have a rugged design, but we want to protect the vehicle,” said John Blevins, SLS chief engineer.

If managers choose to stay on the pad, the next opportunity to launch during this window is Sunday, October 2, a 109-minute window that opens at 2:52 p.m. and flies for an approximately 41-day mission and lands on November 2. 11.

After that, NASA is expected to pull out until the next available windows of October 17-31, November 12-27, and December 9-23. Each window has only certain days when the Earth and Moon are in the correct position for the intended mission.

Artemis I is an uncrewed mission that combines the mobile launcher, the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. The SLS’s 8.8 million pounds of liftoff thrust would become the most powerful rocket ever launched from Earth, surpassing the Saturn V rockets of the Apollo missions.

The Orion spacecraft will be propelled into a trans-lunar injection during which it is expected to send it up to 280,000 miles away, 40,000 miles further than the moon. It will perform multiple orbits around the moon for several weeks before returning to Earth faster than any human-rated spacecraft has ever attempted re-entry, arriving at 24,500 mph creating 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit heat.

The goal is to ensure that Orion can withstand extremes to keep humans safe on future missions. If successful, Artemis II could fly with a crew to orbit the moon in 2024 and Artemis III could fly as early as 2025 to bring humans, including the first woman, back to the lunar surface for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.

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