Fate bowed over the first Artemis mission: after already two unsuccessful attempts, due to technical problems, the launch of NASA’s new megarocket to the moon will not be able to take place on Tuesday as planned, this time due to a “storm”.
Due to the threat of Tropical Storm Yang, which is currently south of Jamaica, the rocket should be ready to return to the assembly shop, NASA said on Saturday.
The storm is expected to develop into a hurricane in the coming days and rise through the Gulf of Mexico towards Florida, where the Kennedy Space Center is located, from where the rocket is supposed to launch.
“On Saturday morning, the teams decided to forego preparations for Tuesday’s launch to allow them to set up systems to transport the rocket (…) in the assembly shop,” NASA wrote in a blog post.
However, a final decision to remove the rocket will not be made until Sunday “so that more data can be collected” as the weather forecast becomes clearer, she added. If the operation takes place, it will begin “late Sunday or early Monday morning.”
The current firing period, which will last until October 4, will then be skipped because there will not be time to get the rocket out in time.
If a final decision is made that the rocket can remain on the launch pad, a new launch date could potentially be chosen before the end of this period.
This “incremental” decision-making helps “maintain launch capability if conditions improve,” NASA Assistant Administrator Jim Free said.
– New failure –
Then the next firing period continues from 17 to 31 October with the possibility of one takeoff per day (except for the periods from 24 to 26 and 28 October).
The orange-and-white SLS rocket, 98 meters high, is capable of withstanding wind gusts of up to 137 km/h on the launch pad.
To perform a complex maneuver to bring the rocket to the assembly body, the steady wind speed should not exceed 75 km/h.
After already two takeoff attempts, canceled at the last moment a few weeks ago, in part due to a fuel leak while filling the rocket’s tanks, this new failure is undesirable for NASA.
Artemis is its new flagship program that will allow humans to return to the moon and take the first woman and the first person of color there.
Fifty years after the last mission of the Apollo program, Artemis 1 is to be used to test that the Orion capsule on top of the rocket is safe to carry a crew to the Moon in the future.
For this first mission, Orion will travel up to 64,000 kilometers beyond the Moon, further than any other habitable spacecraft. The main goal is to test the resistance of its heat shield, the largest ever built, when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.
The Artemis program is designed to provide a long-term human presence on the Moon, which will then allow it to be used as a springboard to Mars.