NASA’s Artemis I rocket could face damaging winds as the storm approaches

NASA's Artemis I rocket could face damaging winds as the storm approaches
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The Artemis I mission, which was expected to send an uncrewed spacecraft on a test mission around the Moon, has been delayed again as NASA’s Space Launch System faces the now-expected Tropical Storm Nicole. turns into a hurricane Before hitting Florida’s East Coast.

The space agency had been targeting November 14 for a third launch attempt, but is now looking forward to November 16, pending “safe conditions for employees to return to work, as well as inspections after the storm passes,” NASA said in a statement late Tuesday. will offer a two-hour kickoff window that opens at 1:04 a.m. ET

CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller noted that the rocket, often referred to as SLS, is sitting on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, just north of where the storm center is expected to make landfall. This means the area can expect some of the strongest winds the system will bring.

If it is a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph (120 km/h), Miller said, winds could range from 80 to 90 mph (130 to 145 km/h), as forecast. This could mean that the rocket could be hit by winds that are too much for it to handle. The SLS is designed to withstand winds of up to 85 miles per hour (137 km/h), officials said.

“Additionally, the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Florida, is forecasting maximum winds of 86 miles per hour early Thursday morning,” Miller said. “So, yes, it’s entirely possible for winds to exceed that limit.”

The latest National Hurricane Center report also gives Cocoa Beach, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the launch site, a 15% chance of sustaining hurricane-force winds.

However, NASA said in a statement that “forecasts indicate that the greatest risks to the pad are high winds, which are not expected to exceed the SLS design.”

“The rocket is designed to withstand heavy rainfall on the launch pad, and the spacecraft’s hatches are sealed to prevent water ingress,” the statement said.

The space agency decided last week to take the SLS rocket to the launch pad because the storm was still raging. an unnamed system on the east coast. At the time, officials expected the storm to bring sustained winds of about 25 knots (29 mph) with gusts of up to 40 knots (46 mph), which was considered well within pre-set limits. According to the comments of Mark Burger, the launch air officer from the United States, what the missile can withstand The Space Force’s 45th Airlift Squadron at a NASA press conference on Nov. 3.

“The National Hurricane Center has only a 30 percent chance of becoming a named storm,” Burger said last Thursday. “However, that being said, the models are very consistent in producing some kind of low pressure.”

A NASA Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft is seen at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 6.

But the storm became a named system on Monday, three days after the rocket was launched from the launch pad.

The strength of the hurricane is unusual because Nicole is expected to be the first hurricane to hit the United States in nearly 40 years in November.

To prepare for the storm, NASA said its teams turned off the Orion spacecraft that sits atop the SLS rocket, as well as the rocket’s side boosters and other components.

“Engineers also installed a hard cover on the launch termination system window, retracted and secured the crew access arm on the mobile launcher, and configured settings for the environmental control system on the spacecraft and rocket elements,” the statement said. “Teams are also securing nearby equipment and conducting walkthroughs of the area for potential debris.”

The Kennedy Space Center announced this on its Twitter page fodder As of Tuesday, it “is in HURICON III status and continues to prepare for the coming storm by taking precautionary measures in all our programs, activities and manpower ahead of the storm.”

HURICON III preparations include deploying a flight team of personnel who will be on site to “secure facilities, property and equipment” as well as assess any damage.

The SLS rocket was held up for weeks after problems with a fuel leak prevented the first two launch attempts. Hurricane Ian has passed Florida forced the rocket to vacate the launch pad in September.

NASA officials returned the rocket to the launch pad last week With a view to working on a third release attempt on November 14th. It is not known how or if the storm will affect those plans.

The overall goal of NASA’s Artemis program is to return humans to the Moon for the first time in half a century. And the Artemis I mission, expected to be the first of many, will lay the groundwork by testing the rocket and spacecraft and all their subsystems to make sure they are safe enough to fly astronauts to the Moon and back.

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