NASA Delays Artemis I Launch Due to Tropical Storm Ian

NASA Delays Artemis I Launch Due to Tropical Storm Ian

NASA decided this morning to delay the launch of the Artemis I uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System rocket because of Tropical Storm Ian which is gathering strength in the Caribbean and expected to hit Florida in coming days. The launch had been scheduled for Tuesday, September 27.

The 322-foot tall SLS rocket with an Orion spacecraft on top is at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex-39B. Two launch attempts were scrubbed on August 29 and September 3. NASA is ready to try again after tests were successfully conducted on Wednesday, but now weather has changed the plan.

The Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft at Launch Complex-39B, September 1, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Yesterday NASA officials downplayed the weather risks, but Tropical Depression 9 was upgraded to a Tropical Storm and named Ian overnight. Although the track still could change, the National Hurricane Center’s forecast shows the Florida peninsula squarely in its path.

The SLS and Orion “stack” can withstand wind gusts up to 74 knots on the pad, but if it must be rolled back to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), sustained winds cannot be more than 40 knots.

Three days are needed to get the rocket ready to roll back and complete the 4-mile trip, so NASA has to start making decisions today about whether to ride out the storm with the rocket still on the pad or move it back to the VAB.

NASA said this morning it is beginning preparations to roll back right now, but a final decision on whether or not to do it will be tomorrow.  The agency wants to limit the number of times the stack is rolled back and forth between the pad and the VAB to avoid stresses on the hardware.  SLS/Orion has made the trip three times already, in March and June for Wet Dress Rehearsal tests and for launch in August.

October 2 is a backup launch opportunity if they do not roll back.

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