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Tuesday’s launch of NASA’s mega-rocket to the Moon threatened by a storm

published on Friday, September 23, 2022 at 8:55 p.m.

The difficulties are linked for the first takeoff of NASA’s new mega-rocket for the Moon.

After two failed launch attempts a few weeks ago due to technical problems, the new attempt scheduled for Tuesday for this Artemis 1 mission is now threatened by a storm forming in the Caribbean.

“Tropical Depression Number Nine” has yet to be named, and is currently located below the Dominican Republic. But it should turn into a hurricane in the coming days, and go up via the Gulf of Mexico to Florida, where the Kennedy Space Center is located from where the rocket is to take off.

“Our plan A is to stay the course and do a liftoff on Sept. 27,” Kennedy Center official Mike Bolger said Friday.

“But if we have to go to plan B, we need a few days to pivot from our current configuration (…) and bring the rocket back under the protection of its assembly building,” he added.

NASA closely monitors each weather report.

“We will probably make a decision no later than tomorrow morning (Saturday morning, editor’s note), or early afternoon,” Bolger said.

The orange and white SLS rocket can withstand, on its launch pad, wind gusts of up to 137 km/h.

If it has to be sheltered, the current firing period, which extends until October 4, will be missed. The next period runs from October 17 to 31, with one possibility of take-off per day (except from October 24 to 26 and 28).

This setback would be a blow to NASA, which has just overcome two other problems.

At the very beginning of September, the takeoff had been canceled at the last moment because of a liquid hydrogen leak during the filling of the tanks with this fuel. A damaged seal has since been replaced, and NASA passed a ground test this week to verify the repairs.

In addition, the US Space Force, in charge of public safety, has agreed to extend the certification period for the rocket’s emergency self-destruct system batteries. This derogation had to be granted in order to be able to take off on Tuesday, or on the fallback date, October 2.

Tuesday, the shooting window should open at 11:37 local time, for 70 minutes. If it takes off that day, the mission will last 39 days, until landing in the Pacific Ocean on November 5.

It will not carry astronauts, Artémis 1 having to be used to verify that the Orion capsule, at the top of the rocket, is safe to transport a crew to the Moon in the future.

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