NASA Artemis 1 Moon Launch Scheduled for Sept. 27 Despite Looming Storm

NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar rocket is ready for its big moment next week, but Mother Nature might keep it on the ground for a while longer.

The space agency is still targeting Tuesday (September 27) for the launch of Artemis 1 from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, although a major storm is brewing in the Caribbean. This storm could develop into a hurricane, and it could have the space coast in sight.

Artemis 1, the first flight of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, will use a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a journey to and from lunar orbit. NASA previously tried to launch the mission in August. on 29 and 3 September, but both times it was shut down due to technical failures, the second of which was a liquid hydrogen fuel leak at the junction between the SLS and its mobile launch tower.

Related: NASA Artemis 1 Lunar Mission: Operational Updates
Read more: 10 wild facts about the Artemis 1 lunar mission

That leak has been patched, NASA officials said, citing a successful refueling test the mission team conducted with the Artemis 1 stack on Wednesday (September 21).

“Overall, it was a great day,” said Brad McCain, vice president and general manager of Jacobs Space Operations Group, the prime contractor for NASA’s ground systems research program at KSC, during a call with reporters today (September 23). ).

“We are very optimistic about our next launch attempt on Tuesday and the team is ready to continue,” McCain added.

The Artemis 1 team has also secured the necessary waiver from the US Space Force, which monitors the Eastern Rocket Launch Range, to extend the Flight Termination System (FTS) certification period, NASA officials said today.

The FTS is designed to destroy the SLS if it veers off course during launch. The system was certified for 25 days, the deadline expired earlier this month. But the Space Force has now approved the FTS through a launch attempt on Tuesday and a fallback opportunity on Oct. 2, NASA officials said.

The FTS failure – the second one received by Artemis 1, following an earlier extension from 20 to 25 days – is a pretty big deal. If the Space Force refused to hand it over, Artemis 1 would have to roll off Launch Pad 39B back into the KSC Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the only place where FTS can recertify.

However, Artemis 1 may still need to return to the VAB to shelter from the oncoming storm. A whirlpool called “Tropical Depression 9” is gaining strength in the Caribbean and may eventually rush towards the KSC.

“Our Plan A is to stay on course and launch on September 27th,” Mike Bolger, program manager for Exploration Ground Systems at KSC, said at a briefing today. “If we were to abandon Plan B, it would take us a couple of days to abandon our current fuel test or run the configuration to rollback and get back under VAB protection.”

The mission team is monitoring the weather closely, Bolger said, and will review their plans tonight after the latest weather patterns are released. He added that the decision on whether to stay on the site or retreat would likely be made “no later than tomorrow morning or very early afternoon.”

Artemis 1 can remain on the launch pad until the maximum wind speed exceeds 74 knots (85 mph or 137 km per hour), Bolger said. And rollback to the VAB can safely occur in sustained winds of up to 40 knots (46 mph or 74 km per hour), although there is likely some wiggle room in that number, he added.

If the Artemis 1 returns to VAB in the next few days, the team will take the opportunity to do some work on the vehicle, such as changing the FTS battery, mission members said during a call today. The rollback process is long, so in this case the mission will definitely miss the September 27th launch window, and it’s not clear if the fallback date of October 2nd will also be out of date.

There are other difficulties associated with the upcoming launch. The weather should be good on launch day, whenever it happens to be. And the launch of the SpaceX Crew-5 astronaut for NASA is scheduled for Oct. 3 from nearby launch pad KSC 39A. We just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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