After meeting on Saturday morning, NASA’s Artemis team decided to forgo the launch opportunity on Sept. 27 and are now preparing to pull back on their massive lunar rocket.
“On Tuesday, Tropical Storm Ian is expected to move north through the eastern Gulf of Mexico as a hurricane, off the southwest coast of Florida. A cold front will also spread across northern Florida heading south,” CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said. .
“The combination of these weather factors will allow for increased chances of rain over most of the Florida peninsula on Tuesday, including Cape Canaveral. Rain and thunderstorms are expected to be numerous and scattered throughout the region. Tropical Storm Ian can arrive Also early Tuesday night across Central Florida.”
Meanwhile, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft continue to sit on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Team members continue to monitor the weather as they decide when to return the missile assembly to the Kennedy Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA will receive information from the US Space Force, the National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to inform their decision.
Engineers postponed their final decision on when to fall back while they collect additional data and analytics. If the team decides to push the missile back into the building, that process will begin late Sunday night or early Monday.
The preparations could shorten the normally three-day process, which it takes to get the spacecraft back inside. And once the car is moving in the slow crawler carriage, it can take 10 hours or more.
The missile stack can remain in the platform and withstand winds of up to 85 miles per hour (74.1 knots). If the stack needs to return to the building, it can handle sustained winds of less than 46 mph (40 knots).
On Friday, Team Artemis said October 2 was a backup launch date. But it is unlikely that a new release date will be set until the decision to back down is made.
“The agency is taking a phased approach in its decision-making process to allow the agency to protect its employees by completing a timely and secure record for them to meet the needs of their families while protecting the option to move forward with others. A launch opportunity is in the current window if weather forecasts improve,” according to the NASA release.
The limitations at all require that the Artemis I mission not fly through any precipitation. The launch restrictions are designed to avoid natural and missile lightning strikes on missiles in flight, which can cause damage to the missile and endanger public safety, according to the Space Force.
Rocket lightning forms when a large rocket flies through an electric field strong enough in the atmosphere, so a cloud that doesn’t produce normal lightning can cause rocket lightning, according to the Space Force.