NASA's massive Moon rocket rides out the storm as skies clear for launch
It has been a back-and-forth affair for NASA’s Artemis I mission over the past few months, with the mission beset by bad weather, leaks and engine trouble. The agency is pressing ahead with a launch attempt this week, however, with the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule in need of only minor repairs after being exposed to the forces of Hurricane Nicole out on the pad.
The uncrewed Artemis I mission is designed to test out the Orion spacecraft’s systems for deep space travel, along with the capability of the Space Launch System, NASA’s most powerful ever rocket, to launch it into space. Both were rolled out to the pad in early November as NASA looked to put a number of false starts behind it for a launch on November 14, before subtropical storm Nicole threatened to derail its plans once again.
After much deliberation, NASA decided to leave the rocket and spacecraft in place on the pad as the storm closed in, with a “ride-out” team in place to closely monitor conditions at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Meanwhile, it pushed back the launch attempt to November 16, to allow time for inspections once the storm had rolled through.
Hurricane Nicole ended up making landfall around 70 miles (112 km) from the pad, but NASA’s inspections over the weekend confirmed the winds experienced were within the design limits for the rocket, and its structural strength remains intact. Only minor repairs were in order, according to the agency, with the team patching up loose caulk and fixing up weather coverings.
Citing meteorologists at the US Space Force, NASA says weather is looking 90% favorable for lift-off on Wednesday. The two-hour launch window opens on November 16 just after 1 am EST. If successful, this would see the Orion capsule splashdown in the ocean on December 11.