NASA's massive Moon rocket hauled inside to shelter from Hurricane Ian
As Florida braces for a strengthening Hurricane Ian, which is expected to bring powerful storms and flooding rainfall to the state, NASA is taking no chances with its massive Moon rocket and Orion capsule. Teams working on the Artemis I mission have made the decision to roll the spacecraft back from the launchpad to protect it from the elements, marking another step back in the ongoing effort to get the mission off the ground.
It has been a rocky path toward lift-off for Artemis I. The mission will see the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built, fire the uncrewed Orion capsule into space and send it into orbit around the Moon. The mission is a way for NASA to test out the spacecraft’s systems for deep space travel ahead of crewed missions, and ultimately a Moon landing further down the track.
An original launch attempt in late August was scrubbed following engine trouble, with a second attempt then foiled by a hydrogen leak in early September. This led NASA to replace seals on the fuel lines between the rocket and its mobile launcher, with cyrogenic testing last week satisfying all of the team’s objectives.
This enabled the team to begin eyeing another launch attempt, but a tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea had other ideas. Preparations began late last week for an accelerated rollback of the spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building. The team continued to monitor the weather situation, before officially waving off a September 27 launch opportunity on Saturday.
The final decision to roll back the rocket and capsule was made on Monday based on the latest forecasts around Hurricane Ian, and was made to not just protect the spacecraft but to allow employees to take care of their families, according to NASA. Late on Monday night, the rocket and capsule began the four-mile (6.4-km) journey back to the Vehicle Assembly Building.
NASA hasn’t outlined its plans for the next launch attempt.