KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – With most of Florida still in the cone of uncertainty for Hurricane Ian, NASA has decided to roll back its massive Space Launch System rocket, effectively ending any possibility of an Oct. 2 launch attempt for Artemis I, NASA said in a blog post.
The rollback is expected to begin at 11 p.m. Monday night, according to NASA.
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Artemis I Update: NASA will roll the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Monday, Sept. 26. First motion is targeted for 11 p.m. EDT.— NASA's Exploration Ground Systems (@NASAGroundSys) September 26, 2022
MORE: https://t.co/817ahBkTqy pic.twitter.com/3xJ0O5pnPN
“Managers met Monday morning and made the decision based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian, after additional data gathered overnight did not show improving expected conditions for the Kennedy Space Center area,” NASA’s blog post reads.
NASA had previously planned on attempting to launch Artemis on Tuesday, but that plan was scrapped due to the uncertainty caused by Ian. The next availability for a launch attempt would be Oct. 2, but the rollback will prevent any such attempt.
Due to weather predictions related to Hurricane Ian, @NASA teams will roll the #Artemis I @NASA_SLS rocket and @NASA_Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at @NASAKennedy.— NASA Artemis (@NASAArtemis) September 26, 2022
First motion is targeted for 11 pm ET tonight: https://t.co/Bx7oanmpa4 pic.twitter.com/wwPds84R36
“If they could have ridden it out at the pad, that would have been their preference,” CBS News space analyst Bill Harwood said. “But clearly, the forecast has enough uncertainty in it that they weren’t willing to risk that.’’
This all comes as the space agency had been working to troubleshoot a series of leaks in the rocket’s cryogenic systems.
Agency officials said Wednesday all objectives were met in the latest cryogenic demonstration test of the Space Launch System. Those objectives — assessing engineers’ repair of a hydrogen leak, loading propellant using new procedures, performing a “kick-start bleed” to simulate pre-launch engine thermal conditioning and completing a pre-pressurization test — have produced data that teams said will be weighed with weather and other factors in order to confirm a launch opportunity.
While Ian is a Gulf coast storm, dozens of Merritt Island residents Monday each took home ten free sandbags at Mitchell Ellington Park, just a few miles from the space center.
“I don’t want to get flooded,” Roberta Stephenson said.
Seven or eight inches of rain that fell just two weeks ago flooded some Merritt Island neighborhoods.
“I’m afraid that the waters won’t subside like they had in the past,” Stephenson said. “But God’s with us and we’ll pull through.”
The next available launch opportunity for Artemis will be on Oct. 17.
“Late October would be the earliest they could possibly roll back out and get a launch attempt in,’’ Harwood said. “More likely, it’s going to be in November.”
Three years ago, before SLS was at KSC and only the mobile launch tower stood at pad 39b, NASA also performed a rollback to prepare for Hurricane Dorian.
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