NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar rocket survived the wrath of Tropical Storm Nicole in good shape and remains on track to launch next Wednesday (Nov. 16) as planned, agency officials said.
Nicole slammed into the Florida Space Coast on Thursday (November 10) as a Category 1 hurricane, pummeling the region with high winds and torrential rain before weakening to a tropical storm. the Artemis 1 pile – a space launch system (SLS) mega rocket topped by an Orion capsule — took the hit of the stormsupporting it outdoors on Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
The SLS and its orion spaceship it apparently has a strong jaw, as post-storm inspections have revealed only minor damage that shouldn’t prevent a timely liftoff, NASA officials said.
“Right now, there’s nothing stopping us from getting to 16,” Jim Free, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said during a news conference Friday. the afternoon (November 11). Liftoff is currently scheduled for November 16 at 1:04 am EST (0604 GMT).
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Nicole ripped off some caulking on Orion, sent some water into the arm that allows access to the capsule from the Artemis 1 launch tower, and ripped one of the SLS engine rain covers, Free said.
The mission team is working to resolve these and several other minor issues and anticipates fixing them in time for liftoff on Wednesday, he added.
However, this does not imply that Artemis 1 is guaranteed to take off on that day; other boxes should also be checked.
For example, the mission team planned to power up both the SLS and Orion on Friday, Free said, and then move on to “program-specific engineering tests” on the mission’s hardware. Any mishaps in those procedures could cause a delay.
Artemis 1 is no stranger to delays. the mission was supposed to be released at the end of augustbut various technical failures delayed takeoff by a month.
Then, in late September, the team moved Artemis 1 off of pad 39B and returned to KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). to shelter from Hurricane Ianthat hit the Space Coast hard.
Mission team members kept SLS and Orion at VAB for a while, taking the time to perform some upgrade and maintenance work. They rolled Artemis 1 back to the platform on November 4not long before Nicole boiled up in the Atlantic.
Early forecasts suggested the storm would not present much of a problem for SLS and Orion. But Nicole grew stronger surprisingly quickly, then put the Space Coast in her crosshairs.
On Tuesday (November 8), NASA delayed the planned liftoff of Artemis 1 by two days. from November 14 to November 16. But by then, it was too late to bring Artemis 1 back to the VAB.
“We weren’t going to have the tailwinds that we want when we start,” Free said.
Team members did not think that this decision put Artemis 1 in serious danger; models and forecasts suggested that SLS would be able to handle the stress that Nicole placed on her. And so it turned out to be the case, Free said.
SLS is certified to withstand maximum wind gusts of up to 85 mph (137 kph) at a level of 60 feet (18 meters) “with structural allowance.” NASA officials have said (opens in a new tab). The maximum wind speed at that altitude that Nicole blew onto the rocket on Thursday was 82 mph (132 kph), Free said.
Winds were more powerful at higher altitudes on Thursday but did not exceed SLS design limits, it added.
Artemis 1 is NASA’s first mission artemis program, whose goal is to establish a permanent human presence on and around the Moon by the end of the decade. The flight will send an uncrewed Orion to lunar orbit and back, on a cruise designed to demonstrate that the capsule and SLS are ready for manned missions.
The November 16 launch window opens at 1:04 am EDT (0604 GMT) and lasts for two hours. If Artemis 1 can’t lift off that day, backup opportunities are available on Nov. 19 and 25, Free said.
Mike Wall is the author of “out there (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; Illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @migueldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacepointcom (opens in a new tab) or in Facebook (opens in a new tab).