NASA Delays Artemis I Due To Tropical Storm Nicole, Targets Launch On November 16: All You Need To Know

NASA Delays Artemis I Due To Tropical Storm Nicole, Targets Launch On November 16: All You Need To Know

NASA has delayed its Artemis I mission once again, and rescheduled the launch to November 16. Artemis I, the first leg of the Artemis Moon Mission, was scheduled to launch on November 14. However, the space agency re-targeted the launch of Artemis I due to Tropical Storm Nicole.

Jim Free, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, said on Twitter that the Artemis team is preparing the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft for the incoming weather, and targeting November 16 for the launch of Artemis I. He also wrote that NASA is grateful to the United States Space Force, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Hurricane Center for their forecasting data that is helping the US space agency monitor Tropical Storm Nicole. 

We’re grateful to @SpaceForceDOD, @NOAA, and the @NHC_Atlantic for their valuable forecasting data as we monitor Tropical Storm Nicole. The team is preparing @NASA_SLS & @NASA_Orion for the incoming weather, & now targeting Nov 16 for #Artemis I’s launch. https://t.co/bUHVuuAQm5 pic.twitter.com/AJcTtSWgEs

— Jim Free (@JimFree) November 8, 2022

When will Artemis I launch?

The two-hour launch window for Artemis I on November 16 will open at 1:04 am EST (11:34 am IST). If Artemis I is launched on the scheduled date, and the mission objectives are completed in space, the Orion spacecraft will splash down off the coast of Florida on December 11. 

NASA has also decided on a back-up launch opportunity on November 19. 

Tropical Storm Nicole is a Category 1 Hurricane. Know what it means

Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to hit Florida as a Category 1 Hurricane. This has jeopardised the Artemis I mission because it is slated to be launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which is situated in Florida. 

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A Category 1 Hurricane results in winds with speeds of 74 to 95 miles per hour. These are “very dangerous winds”, which can cause damage to roofs and power lines, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Shallowly rooted trees could be toppled. 

Kennedy Space Center in HURCON III status. What does this mean?

Artemis I will not be launched until the conditions become safe for employees to return to work, NASA said in a mission update. Also, inspections will continue after the storm has passed. 

Kennedy Space Center is currently in HURCON III status. HURCON stands for Hurricane Condition. The status means that facilities, property and equipment at the centre will have to be secured. Also, the ‘ride-out’ team will be briefed and deployed. 

A ‘ride-out’ team includes a set of personnel who will remain in a safe location at Kennedy Space Center throughout the storm to monitor different conditions, including the flight hardware for Artemis I, as part of NASA’s hurricane preparedness protocol. When the HURCON II status is reached, Kennedy will release non-essential personnel. NASA says that it continues to prioritise its employees in the Kennedy area.

SLS and Orion to remain on launchpad till launch date

The space agency, based on expected weather conditions and options to roll back ahead of the storm, has determined that the safest option for the launch hardware was to keep the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft secured at the launchpad. 

How are teams protecting the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft at Kennedy?

At the 60-foot level, the SLS rocket is designed to withstand winds with speeds of up to 85 miles per hour. The greater risks at the pad are high winds that are not expected to exceed the SLS design, current forecasts predict. The SLS rocket is designed to withstand heavy rains at the launch pad. Also, the spacecraft hatches have been secured to prevent water from entering into it. 

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Artemis teams have powered down the Orion spacecraft, SLS core stage, interim cryogenic propulsion stage, and boosters, as part of preparation steps for the storm. The interim cryogenic propulsion stage is a liquid oxygen-based or liquid hydrogen-based system in a rocket. 

Over the launch abort system window, a hard cover has been installed. The launch abort system window for the Orion spacecraft is designed to protect astronauts if a problem arises during launch or initial ascent, and is like an emergency exit for the spacecraft. 

Engineers have also retracted and secured the crew access arm on the mobile launcher and configured the settings for the environmental control system on the Orion spacecraft and rocket elements. The mobile launcher is the ground platform that will be used to assemble, process and launch the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center. Artemis teams are also securing nearby hardware. 

As soon as the weather conditions become favourable and the Kennedy Space Center status allows, teams will resume work for the launch of Artemis I. After this, technicians will perform inspections at the launch pad to assess the status of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.