AFP, published on Friday, September 23, 2022 at 8:55 p.m.
The difficulties are related to the first launch of NASA’s new megarocket for the Moon.
After two failed launch attempts a few weeks ago due to technical problems, the new attempt scheduled for Tuesday for this Artemis 1 mission is now threatened by a storm forming in the Caribbean.
“Tropical Depression Number Nine” has yet to be named and is currently located below the Dominican Republic. But it should become a hurricane in the next few days, and move up the Gulf of Mexico to Florida, where the Kennedy Space Center is located from where the rocket will take off.
“Our plan A is to stay the course and do a liftoff on September 27,” Kennedy Center official Mike Bolger said Friday.
“But if we have to go to plan B, we need a few days to change our current configuration … and put the rocket back under the protection of its assembly building,” he added.
NASA closely follows every weather report.
“We’ll probably make a decision no later than tomorrow morning (Saturday morning, editor’s note) or early afternoon,” Bolger said.
The orange and white SLS rocket can withstand wind gusts of up to 137 km/h on its launch pad.
If you have to be guarded, you’ll miss out on the current shooting window, which runs through October 4. The next period is from October 17 to 31, with a possibility of taking off per day (except from October 24 to 26 and 28).
This setback would be a serious blow to NASA, which has just overcome two other problems.
At the beginning of September, the takeoff had been canceled at the last moment due to a leak of liquid hydrogen during the filling of the tanks with this fuel. A damaged seal has since been replaced and NASA passed a ground test this week to verify the repairs.
In addition, the US Space Force, in charge of public safety, agreed to extend the certification period for the rocket’s emergency self-destruct system batteries. This exception had to be granted in order to take off on Tuesday, or on the booking date, October 2.
On Tuesday, the shooting window should open at 11:37 local time, for 70 minutes. If it takes off that day, the mission will last 39 days, until landing in the Pacific Ocean on November 5.
It will not carry astronauts, Artémis 1 will have to be used to verify that the Orion capsule, on top of the rocket, is safe to transport a crew to the Moon in the future.