NASA's Artemis I launch is delayed once again, this time by hurricane weather

NASA had hoped to launch Artemis I this week.
Chris Young
NASA's SLS rocket on the launch pad.
NASA's SLS rocket on the launch pad.

Source: NASA 

NASA's next SLS launch attempt has been canceled due to the intensifying Tropical Storm Ian.

The space agency had been targeting Tuesday, September 27, as the launch date for its Artemis I mission from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

On Friday, September 23, NASA announced that they were keeping an eye on a storm in the Caribbean called Tropical Depression Nine. Later in the day, the storm grew stronger, and models predicted it would strengthen further into a hurricane and hit Florida by the middle of this week.

Now, the space agency is weighing up on whether to keep SLS on the launch pad or send it back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and shelter it from the storm.

Hurricane weather delays Artemis I launch

NASA is now readying SLS and the Orion capsule for a potential rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The space agency will have to make a decision soon as it takes roughly a day for its Crawler-Transporter 2 vehicle to slowly roll SLS back to the VAB, traveling at approximately one mph.

Either way, the preparations for a potential rollback mean the September 27 launch date is off the table. If NASA does decide to keep SLS and Orion on the launch pad, though, it could go ahead with an October 2 launch. That's a big if, though, as the space agency has faced numerous delays to the launch of Artemis I, and it's unlikely it will want to risk any damage to its multibillion-dollar launch system.

In a statement, also shared on Twitter, NASA wrote: "managers continue to closely monitor weather reports and will meet this evening to evaluate whether to roll the NASA SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft back or remain at the pad to preserve an opportunity for an Artemis launch attempt on October 2."

If NASA does decide to roll SLS back to the VAB, it will almost certainly have to wait until late October at the earliest for launch.

To the moon and back

NASA's Artemis I mission is the first in a series of missions that will eventually take humans back to the lunar surface — including the first woman and first person of color to reach the moon — and serve as a stepping stone for human missions to Mars. NASA aims to establish a permanent human presence on the moon with its Artemis program.

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If all goes well with Artemis I, NASA will then send humans on the same trajectory around the moon and back aboard its Orion capsule for Artemis II in 2024. Artemis III will use a SpaceX Starship as a lunar lander to send humans to the lunar surface for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972. That mission is expected to take place around 2025 or 2026.

NASA has tried to launch Artemis I on two separate occasions, on August 29 and September 3, though both attempts were canceled due to technical problems, including a hydrogen leak issue that was fixed and then tested last week on Wednesday, September 21. Now, thanks to Tropical Storm Ian, NASA will have to wait just a little longer before it sends its SLS rocket and Orion capsule moonward.

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