NASA Watching Weather for Artemis I as Nicole Threatens

NASA Watching Weather for Artemis I as Nicole Threatens

NASA once again is keeping a watchful eye on a tropical storm that could impact plans to launch the Artemis I uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. A hurricane watch has just been posted for Florida’s Atlantic Coast for the storm named Nicole. The SLS/Orion stack was taken back to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building in September when Hurricane Ian hit the state and just rolled back to the launch pad on Friday.

During a briefing Thursday, Jim Free, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, and Cliff Lanham, Senior Vehicle Operations Manager for Exploration Ground Systems, talked about the storm and their decision to move Artemis I to Launch Complex-39B anyway. At the time, Lanham said the National Hurricane Center was forecasting a maximum of 40 knot winds and just a 30 percent chance it would become a named storm.

Now it has become a named storm with the possibility of hurricane force winds.

Source: NOAA National Hurricane Center. The pink area includes Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center.

When Hurricane Ian bore down on Florida in September, two launch attempts on August 29 and September 3 had been scrubbed and NASA was getting ready to try again on September 27.

But the 322-foot tall rocket can only withstand wind gusts up to 74 knots on the launch pad and sustained winds of 40 knots. The agency reluctantly concluded it had to return to the VAB even though it wants to limit the number of times the stack makes the 8-12 hour trip back and forth to avoid stresses on the hardware.

This makes the third round-trip, arriving back at LC-39B Friday morning.

The Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft back at Launch Complex-39B at Kennedy Space Center, November 4, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

In an emailed statement today, the agency said it has placed Kennedy Space Center in Hurricane Condition 4 (HURCON 4) as a precaution and will evaluate the situation as it develops, but this time SLS/Orion is staying at the pad.

NASA is working with U.S. Space Force and the National Hurricane Center to monitor Subtropical Storm Nicole. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is currently in a HURCON (Hurricane Condition) IV status, which includes implementing checklists and preparations for the storm as the agency continues to prioritize its employees in the Kennedy areaBased on current forecast data, managers have determined the Space Launch System rocket and Orion will remain at Launch Pad 39B. Teams at Kennedy will continue to monitor the weather, make sure all personnel are safe, and will evaluate the status of the Monday, Nov. 14, launch attempt for the Artemis I mission as we proceed and receive updated predictions about the weather. — NASA

Kennedy Space Center and the adjacent Cape Canaveral Space Force Station are part of the U.S. Space Force’s Eastern Range, overseen by the USSF’s Space Launch Delta 45. It also is at HURCON IV.

Although the weather should clear in time for launch on November 14 as planned, the question is whether the storm will impact launch preparations.

November 16 and 19 are backup days if the launch is delayed.

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