NASA assesses damage to Artemis 1 moon rocket from Tropical Storm Nicole
NASA has begun assessing how well its Artemis 1 moon rocket withstood a powerful storm that hit its Florida spaceport today.
That maelstrom was Nicole, which slammed into Florida’s Space Coast Thursday morning (Nov. 10) as a Category 1 hurricane but weakened to a tropical storm as it moved inland. Nicole’s wind and rain the Artemis 1 vehicle lashed downwhich sits atop Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
The Artemis 1 pile — a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying an Orion crew capsule — appears to have passed the ordeal largely unscathed, NASA officials said.
“Our team is conducting the first visual checks of the rocket, spacecraft and ground system equipment with the cameras on the launch pad,” said Jim Free, associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. said via Twitter (opens in new tab) on Thursday afternoon.
“Camera inspections show very minor damage, such as loose sealant and cracks in the weather cover,” he added. “The team will conduct additional on-site inspections of the vehicle shortly.”
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 Moon Mission: Live Updates
More: 10 Wild Facts About The Artemis 1 Moon Mission
Sensors on Pad 39B recorded peak wind gusts of 82 mph (132 kph) at an elevation of 60 feet (18 meters) during Nicole’s passage, Free said.
Those wind speeds are “within the rocket’s capability,” he noted. “We expect to clear the vehicle for those conditions soon.”
Indeed, SLS is designed to handle wind speeds of up to 85 mph (137 kph) at 60 feet level “with structural margin,” NASA officials said in a statement. statement on Tuesday (November 8).
Artemis 1 will send Orion on an unmanned journey to lunar orbit and back. NASA is gearing up to launch the mission as soon as possible on Wednesday (November 16). It’s unclear if Nicole changed that calculus; Free’s Twitter post did not mention the schedule or any changes to it.
The weather has kept Artemis 1 grounded for longer than originally planned. The mission was supposed to fly in late September, but NASA rolled SLS and Orion off Pad 39B and back to KSC’s cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building to shelter from Hurricane Ian.
Artemis 1 rolled back to the pad on November 4. Nicole’s approach caused NASA to delay the planned launch by two days, from November 14 to November 16. But mission team members chose to keep the missile on track during the storm’s landfall, which grew significantly stronger than early predictions had predicted.
“With the unexpected change in the forecast, it was deemed too risky to return to the Vehicle Assembly Building in high winds, and the team decided the launch pad was the safest place for the rocket to weather the storm,” Free said.
As the name suggests, Artemis 1 is NASA’s first mission Artemis program of lunar research.
If all goes well on Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts on a mission around the moon as early as 2024. Artemis 3 will then set up boots near the moon’s south pole in 2025 or 2026, if current schedules hold.
Mike Wall is the author of “Outside (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on facebook (opens in new tab).
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