Artemis I Moon launch may be delayed again — and NASA can't do anything about it
NASA hopes the next 24 hours have good news to launch on Tuesday.
Hurricane season is the newest hurdle for Artemis I, NASA’s first major lunar return since Apollo.
The mission team will meet tonight after the weather forecast update at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, and expect to decide by early or midday on Saturday, September 24, if they will keep Artemis I at Launchpad 39B at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA hopes to hear good news to launch on Tuesday, September 27th.
Tropical depression nine could trigger rollback, where NASA would send Artemis I back to its rocket garage at KSC called the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Mike Bolger, manager of NASA's Exploration Ground Systems Program at KSC, said during a Friday teleconference that the Moon rocket could stay at the launchpad with gusts up to 74 knots, and sustained winds of up to 40 knots — but any more than that and it’ll have to take shelter.
The team was surprised how the path of the storm changed so swiftly since Wednesday, when the Artemis engineers had completed an abrupt cryogenic fueling test to confirm the stability of recent fuel line reseals. NASA teams wrapped repairs work on plates on two lines that can feed and drain propellant. The team was pleased with the midweek demonstration, which makes the Tuesday launch attempt a possibility.
The team isn’t worried that the rollback will disturb the recent repair work. John Blevins, SLS chief engineer, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, shared on Friday that he doesn’t think the rollback itself will have any effect on the reseals, and he is “not concerned with the leak with the rollback, per se.”
Right now they are in a planning phase. Some actions, though, could get KSC ready in the event the storm winds are too strong for Artemis I to handle on the launchpad. Bolger said they’ve asked the team that operates the slow-moving rocket transporter called the crawler to get ready. “They’re in the process of doing that,” he said.
Bolger said they might seek to “free up as many resources as possible” to “compress the timeline” for an Artemis I rollback.
The weather issue isn’t too strange, they said, and mentioned they’re moving through procedures not unlike what the Space Shuttles would face from time to time.
For now, NASA prepares like a kitchen’s mise en place.