KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – After inspecting the Artemis I moon mission rocket following Hurricane Nicole, NASA is going to make “minor repairs” ahead of the upcoming launch on Wednesday.
Nicole made landfall south of Vero Beach on Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane. NASA is aiming for 1:04 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, for the launch of the Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft on top.
Jim Free, NASA associate administrator, said inspections and tests were conducted Friday on the SLS rocket, which stayed on the launch pad as the storm moved through the state. Some minor damage was found by the Kennedy Space Center’s rideout crew, including tears in weather coverings and loose caulk at Launch Pad 39B, where the rocket weathered the storm.
During a news conference on Friday, Free said there is “nothing preventing us from getting to the 16th.”
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Free said before the hurricane, teams weighed the risks of rolling back the rocket or keeping it on the launch pad.
“I think it’s safe to say for all of us we obviously would not have wanted to stay out there. The best place for the vehicle and those kinds of things is the VAB. We could not make it back to the VAB and be safe, so we stayed where we were and our predictions on our certification limits protected us from that from the storm,” he said.
When asked if Free got nervous about the rocket during the storm, he said SLS is designed to be out there.
“And if we didn’t design it to be out there in harsh weather, we picked the wrong launch spot and and we should have designed the vehicle better. So we do design it to be there,” he said.
Kennedy Space Center wrote on Twitter the best decision was made at the time “high uncertainty in predicting the weather four days out.”
“With the unexpected change to the forecast, returning to the Vehicle Assembly Building was deemed to be too risky in high winds, and the team decided the launch pad was the safest place for the rocket to weather the storm,” the center said.
The Artemis program is the long-awaited NASA program to take Americans back to the moon and possibly to Mars. The uncrewed first mission will see the Orion spacecraft circle the moon before returning to Earth.
If the first mission is successful, it will be followed by a crewed test mission that will also orbit the moon. If that mission is successful, Artemis III’s goal will be to land on the moon. NASA said Artemis I will take up to 14 days to get to the moon.
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