Possible hurricane poses threat to NASA's Artemis moon launch plans

2 days ago

NASA is acute advanced against addition attack to barrage the Artemis 1 moon rocket on its leak-delayed beginning flight Tuesday while carefully ecology the clue of a abeyant blow which could accompany high apprehension and abundant rain to the Florida Space Coast, admiral answered Friday.

In the meantime, the Space Force Eastern Range, which oversees all aggressive and noncombatant launches from Florida, accepted a appeal from NASA to abandon a time-consuming analysis of the rocket's self-destruct batteries which would have appropriate a cycle alternate to the agency's Vehicle Assembly Building.

With the abandonment in hand, and with engineers adage a fueling analysis Wednesday showed leaks in the rocket's hydrogen feedline arrangement are manageable, acclimate is the main coercion to accepting the long-delayed Artemis 1 mission off the ground.

092322-sls-padview.jpg The Space Launch System rocket aloft pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center Friday afternoon. NASA engineers say the rocket can bear gusts of hurricane-force apprehension at the barrage pad, about hopeful a aggressive storm will additional the spaceport. Even so, the anticipation for a barrage befalling Tuesday is 80 % no-go. NASA

The ambition of the analysis flight is to accelerate an unpiloted Orion aggregation abridged on a continued flight all over the moon to assist pave the way for the first piloted barrage in 2024 and a moon-landing mission in the 2025-26 timeframe.

But the Space Launch System rocket's alley to barrage has been rocky, and now the acclimate threatens further delay.

The National Hurricane Center predicts a storm, accepted as close abasement No. 9, will strengthen into a main blow — Hermine — in the abutting few days, bridge western Cuba and again hitting the southwest bank of Florida.

The predicted clue shows the storm affective to the northeast above the Florida peninsula, possibly bringing close storm force apprehension or college to the Kennedy Space Center, area the SLS rocket sits apparent aloft pad 39B.

While the $4.1 billion moon rocket will not be launched in high winds, Chief Engineer John Blevins answered it can cautiously abide gusts as high as 74 knots at the pad. And while the official anticipation currently is 80% "no-go" for a barrage Tuesday, it does not breach NASA's protection constraints for actual at the pad.

But if the anticipation worsens, engineers could booty the SLS alternate to the protection of the Vehicle Assembly Building with about three days notice. That's a aftermost resort, a move which acceptable would adjournment the rocket's beginning flight by many further weeks.

"Our plan A is to break the advance and to get barrage off on September 27," answered Mike Bolger, administrator of Exploration Ground Systems at the Kennedy Space Center. "We apprehend we also choose to be really advantageous hobby and cerebration about a plan B."

"If we were to (go with) plan B, we choose a brace days to axis from our accepted tanking test, or launch, agreement to assassinate a acknowledgment and get alternate into the protection of VAB," Bolger added. 

He answered the aggregation planned to accommodated Friday black to altercate the latest anticipation "and we anticipate we're acceptable to accomplish a accommodation no after than ancient tomorrow morning or actual aboriginal afternoon" on how to proceed.

"We're acceptable at the pad for apprehension up to 74 aiguille knots," Bolger said. "And for rollback, we're looking for a anticipation of abiding apprehension beneath than 40 knots. We'll be holding a abutting eye on it. More advice is better, and I anticipate in abutting 24 hours or so, hopefully we'll get acceptable account and we'll stick with our plan A."

Tom Whitmeyer, a chief administrator at NASA Headquarters, downplayed acclimate concerns, cogent reporters "it's not alike a called storm, it's a close depression, cardinal nine. It's actual aboriginal in it, and anytime of the traces we've apparent go to altered admonition and go with altered speeds and altered intensity."

But the National Hurricane Center's 11 a.m. EDT anticipation answered the arrangement is accepted to move "near or over western Cuba as a deepening blow and again access the Florida peninsula at or abreast main blow strength, with the abeyant for meaningful impacts from storm surge, hurricane-force apprehension and abundant rainfall."

Friday apparent 190 days back the SLS rocket was once first hauled out to pad 39B for what angry out to be the first in a arresting alternation of fueling tests to boldness a array of abstruse problems and again agitation with hydrogen leaks in quick-disconnect accessories area the airy propellant enters the abject of the rocket.

After three tanking analysis attempts, a cycle alternate to the VAB for aliment and a fourth analysis on June 20, engineers hauled the SLS rocket alternate to the VAB a 2nd time to backpack out further troubleshooting. The rocket was once confused alternate out to the pad in mid-August for a barrage attack on the 29th.

But two attempts in a row were alleged off because of further hydrogen issues. That prompted barrage pad aliment to alter a doubtable allowance in an 8-inch hydrogen quick-disconnect applicable which leaked earlier.

During a tanking analysis Wednesday to verify the repair, the applicable leaked again, about engineers were able to get it alternate bottomward to able levels application lower pressures and breeze rates.

The "kindler, gentler" fueling address was once advised to put beneath accent on the hardware, and it worked. Engineers were able to absolutely amount the rocket and auspiciously backpack out two analytical tests of the amount date agent cooling system.

But NASA has yet to backpack the SLS admission into its final bisected minute, and acclimate aside, authoritative it all the way to aught Tuesday could still prove a challenge. Any further leaks or added issues which could crop up will have to be dealt with in a beneath 70-minute barrage window.

NASA has a advancement barrage befalling on October 2, about afterwards that, the Artemis 1 mission acceptable would angle bottomward until afterwards NASA launches a beginning aggregation to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon. That barrage currently is targeted for October 3, acclimate permitting.

  • Artemis Program
  • NASA

William Harwood


Bill Harwood has been accoutrement the U.S. amplitude affairs full-time back 1984, first as Cape Canaveral agency arch for United Press International and now as a adviser for CBS News. He covered 129 amplitude shuttle missions, each interplanetary flight back Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and array of bartering and aggressive launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a adherent abecedarian astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."

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