Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are battening down the hatches on Artemis I — literally. With Tropical Storm Nicole bearing down on eastern Florida, they won’t be rolling the rocket and spacecraft back into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) this time, as they did in advance of Hurricane Ian back in September. Instead, Artemis I will ride out the storm on Launch Pad 39B in hopes that its teams can have it ready for its latest launch date, November 16.
Nicole is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on the evening of Wednesday, November 9, somewhere between Melbourne and Cocoa Beach. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm’s strongest winds to fall short of what SLS can safely stand up to, which is about 85 miles per hour at a point 60 feet (18 meters) above the ground. With that in mind, NASA opted to leave Artemis on the pad to weather the storm rather than rolling it back into the VAB yet again. We can only hope there are photos because it sounds like the kind of imagery Ernest Hemingway would have come up with if he’d written science fiction.
But with the storm bearing down on Tuesday evening, NASA decided to push back the launch date by two more days, from November 14 to November 16, to allow engineers time to inspect the rocket, the spacecraft, and the launch pad afterward. The new launch attempt is set for November 16 at 1:04 a.m. EST, although if you’re writing that in your calendar, you may want to use a pencil. NASA is holding onto a backup date of November 19.
Meanwhile, eastern Floridians are boarding up windows and stocking up ice chests, and teams at Kennedy Space Center have installed a hard cover over a window on the Orion capsule’s launch aboard system, and they’re checking the launch pad for anything that could turn into flying debris in hurricane-force winds.