NASA Will Wait Until November to Launch Artemis I

NASA Will Wait Until November to Launch Artemis I

NASA said today it will wait until November to make the next attempt to launch the Artemis I test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Hurricane Ian forced the agency to roll Artemis I back to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA will take advantage of the opportunity to do a thorough checkout and skip the October launch period. A specific launch date will be announced later.

After scrubbing the first two launch attempts on August 29 and September 3 and completing a test on September 21, NASA was hoping to launch on September 27. The imminent arrival of Hurricane Ian scuttled those plans as well as the chance of an October 2 launch when NASA concluded that forecast winds were too high to keep the rocket on the launch pad. Artemis I was rolled back to the VAB on Monday where it safely weathered the storm.

The Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft attached to the Mobile Launcher atop Crawler Transporter-2 headed back to the safety of the VAB, September 26, 2022. Photo credit: Joel Kowsky

Artemis I is an uncrewed test of SLS/Orion around the Moon and can only launch during certain periods when the Earth, Moon and Sun are in the proper position relative to each other to meet test objectives such as ensuring the Orion solar arrays get the right amount of power from the Sun and the spacecraft lands in daylight when it comes back to Earth. NASA has a graphic showing when it can or cannot launch. Gray and red blocks mean they cannot launch, green means they can. The difference between light green and dark green is whether it is a short duration or long duration mission.

The next launch period is October 17-31. At a briefing on Tuesday, Jim Free, Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, wouldn’t rule out an October launch, but conceded it would be difficult. At a minimum NASA needs to test and possibly replace a critical battery in the Flight Termination System that is difficult to access and the workforce is not expected to be back to full strength until next week as they and their families clean up from the hurricane. Free added they will check out other parts of the SLS/Orion system while they have it in the VAB.

The implication was that the launch likely would slip to November and this afternoon NASA made it official.

“Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida conducted initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts from Hurricane Ian. There was no damage to Artemis flight hardware, and facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations. Next, engineers will extend access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to prepare for additional inspections and start preparation for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.

“As teams complete post-storm recovery operations, NASA has determined it will focus Artemis I launch planning efforts on the launch period that opens Nov. 12 and closes Nov. 27. Over the coming days, managers will assess the scope of work to perform while in the VAB and identify a specific date for the next launch attempt. Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch.”

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