NASA postpones Artemis moon launch again due to tropical storm risk

NASA is pulling out of its Artemis I mission to the moon next week as a tropical storm off the coast of South America creeps toward Florida and the site of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket.

The US space agency said it would decide on Sunday whether to return the rocket and spacecraft back from the launch pad to the main hangar, the vehicle assembly building.

“During a meeting Saturday morning, teams decided to forgo preparations for Tuesday’s launch date to allow them to configure systems to return the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building,” said NASA in a blog post on Saturday.

The decision to delay comes after NASA completed a key fueling test on Sept. 21 of its Space Launch System rocket, the massive vehicle that will send an unmanned capsule around the moon. The refueling test was intended to determine whether NASA had successfully repaired a leak that hampered the rocket’s Sept. 3 launch attempt.

During the test, two hydrogen leaks occurred while engineers were fueling the SLS rocket, as well as other technical problems. While one of the leaks eventually subsided after some troubleshooting, a second leak that appeared later in the test would have prevented the launch if NASA had hoped to fly that day.

Despite the problems, NASA was able to fully fuel the rocket, and the agency says the mission team met all objectives for the test.

“It’s been a very successful day,” said John Blevins, chief engineer of the SLS rocket at NASA, during a press conference on Friday. “I think all the secondary goals were achieved, not just the main goals.”

NASA expressed hope Friday that a Sept. 27 launch attempt is possible despite forecasts showing the newly formed Tropical Depression 9 heading toward Florida. The depression strengthened into a tropical storm late Friday.

“It’s not even a named storm,” Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for general exploration systems development, said during the press conference. ‚ÄúThis is Tropical Depression Number Nine. Its too early.”

The SLS rocket is designed to handle wind gusts of 74 knots on the launch pad. NASA takes approximately three days to prepare and return the SLS back to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

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