Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket weathers Hurricane Nicole
NASA said it is aiming to launch the uncrewed Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket next week after weathering Hurricane Nicole as it came ashore over south Florida.
The agency said SLS and the Orion spacecraft only received minor damage and the vehicle did not experience winds that exceeded its certification limits. Assuming engineers make any needed repairs and prepare the rocket in time, NASA hopes to attempt to fly Artemis 1 no earlier than a two-hour window that opens at 1:04 a.m. EST (06:04 UTC) Nov. 16, 2022.
If engineers need more time, there are two backup dates. The first would be at 1:45 a.m. EST (06:45 UTC) Nov. 19 and the second would be at 10:10 a.m. EST (15:10 UTC) Nov. 25.
Mission managers rolled the Artemis 1 SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft out to Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 4. While there were early indications that a tropical system could form in the Atlantic Ocean a few days after rollout, NASA said the risk assessment at the time was low.
By the time it became clear that what would become Hurricane Nicole would form and take aim on the south Florida coast, it was too late for NASA to return the rocket back to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building — wind limits for a rollback would have been too high. So, the rocket remained secured at the pad.
The Category 1 storm made landfall at about 3 a.m. (8:00 UTC) Nov. 10, just south of Vero Beach, Florida, roughly 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Kennedy Space Center.
The SLS rocket has a peak wind certification limit of about 85 miles (136 kilometers) per hour. NASA said the highest recorded at the pad was 82 miles (132 kilometers) per hour.
Among the things engineers will need to repair include loose RTV sealant on Orion, a tear in an engine rain cover and water in the crew access arm. Additionally, an umbilical on Orion came off its tray, NASA said.
Video courtesy of Orbital Velocity
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity.