Artemis I: NASA gives go ahead for historic SLS launch attempt tomorrow

NASA's ambitious Artemis program could finally launch to the moon.
Chris Young
SLS on the launchpad.
SLS on the launchpad.

NASA / Twitter 

NASA's Artemis I mission will attempt to launch to the moon this week.

The space agency's mission officials met on Monday, November 14, to discuss launch preparations. Despite the fact that tropical storm Nicole caused some damage to a strip of insulating caulking on the Orion capsule sitting atop NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said "there's no change in our plan to attempt to launch on the 16th," during a media teleconference.

Third time lucky for Artemis I?

During the teleconference, Jeremy Parsons, deputy manager of NASA's Exploration Ground Systems program, added that "the unanimous recommendation for the team was that we were in a good position to go ahead and proceed with the launch countdown."

This means that NASA will carry out preflight checks and the cryogenic fueling process today, November 15, in preparation for its third Artemis I launch attempt tomorrow, November 16. NASA pointed out on its website that the two-hour launch window for tomorrow's attempt begins at 1:04 am EST (0604 GMT). It will be streamed on NASA's YouTube channel, viewable in the embedded video below. We will also provide live text coverage here on IE.

The launch of Artemis I has been scrubbed twice before on the launchpad and delayed due to hurricane weather in September. Last week, NASA also delayed the latest launch attempt by two days, prompting fears that worsening weather conditions could cause another protracted delay.

NASA assesses Artemis I airworthiness

One of the main issues NASA's mission managers discussed was the damage caused by Tropical Storm Nicole to insulating caulking on the Orion capsule.

The damaged strip was designed to smooth out part of the exterior of the Orion capsule. It was damaged by high winds caused by Hurricane Nicole, which was quickly downgraded to tropical storm status shortly after making landfall last week.

Those high winds removed a 10-foot (three-meter) section of the insulating caulking, but NASA officials still decided to give the go-ahead for launch. "We looked across the entire vehicle stack from the Orion spacecraft all the way down to the base of the stack, and we agreed that the risk is bounded by current hazards and hazard reports that we have out there," Sarafin explained, adding that the space agency will continue to monitor safety parameters up to launch.

The Artemis I mission is the first of NASA's Artemis program missions designed to help the space agency establish a permanent presence on the moon. If Artemis I does take to the skies tomorrow, the mission is expected to last 25 days. SLS will launch NASA's Orion capsule into orbit, and Orion will then travel to the moon and back for an eventual splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 9.

Artemis I has garnered criticism for going wildly over budget, but the ambitious Artemis program has also been praised as the start of a bold new step for human spaceflight. If all goes to plan for Artemis I, the crewed Artemis II mission is expected to carry out the same journey in 2024, flying astronauts around the moon and back. Artemis III, currently scheduled for 2025 or 2026, will finally land astronauts back on the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.

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