Tropical Storm Nicole Forces Another Delay to Artemis I Launch

Tropical Storm Nicole Forces Another Delay to Artemis I Launch

It seems NASA’s Artemis I just can’t catch a break. The uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft already was delayed by two scrubs and Hurricane Ian. Now, just as it was getting ready for another try, Tropical Storm Nicole is forcing another postponement. NASA announced this evening a two-day slip from November 14 to November 16, and that date is contingent on when the launch team can resume work. November 19 is a backup.

The launch was scrubbed on August 29 and September 3. NASA was getting ready to try again on September 27 when Hurricane Ian forced the agency to roll the SLS/Orion stack back to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Over the past several weeks, a number of fixes were made and NASA set November 14 at 12:07 am EST for the next attempt.

On Thursday, NASA officials decided to proceed with rolling the SLS/Orion stack back to Launch Complex-39B even though they knew a storm was brewing in the Caribbean. At the time, the forecast was for winds well within tolerances and only a 30 percent chance it would even become a named storm.

The Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft on their way back to the Launch Complex-39B, November 4, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

The situation changed in recent days, however, and Tropical Storm Nicole is now barrelling down on Florida’s Atlantic Coast very close to Kennedy Space Center. It is expected to be a category I hurricane at landfall between Boca Raton and the Flagler/Volusia County Line, FL, the stretch of coastline where KSC is located.

The SLS rocket is 322 feet tall and designed to withstand 74.4 knot (85 mile per hour) wind gusts at the 60-foot level.

The National Hurricane Center’s 4:00 pm EST forecast today is for winds between 34-63 knots arriving in the KSC area tomorrow along with a 3-5 foot storm surge.

NASA said this evening that “teams have powered down the Orion spacecraft, SLS core stage, interim cryogenic propulsion stage, and boosters. Engineers have also installed a hard cover over the launch abort system window, retracted and secured the crew access arm on the mobile launcher and configured the settings for the environmental control system on the spacecraft and rocket elements. Teams also are securing nearby hardware and performing walkdowns for potential debris in the area.”

The new plan is for launch on November 16 at 1:04 am EST. The launch window is 120 minutes long. A launch that day would result in a return to Earth and splashdown in the Pacific on December 11.

That is all dependent on a readiness assessment after Nicole passes. November 19 is a backup if more work is needed.

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