NASA’s Artemis I rocket sits on Launch Pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 02, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
NASA is abandoning its new moon rocket launch attempt next week because of a tropical storm that is expected to become a major hurricane.
This is the third delay in the past month for a lunar-orbiting test flight featuring mannequins but no astronauts, a follow-up to NASA’s Apollo moon-landing program half a century ago. Hydrogen fuel leaks and other technical issues caused the previous scrub.
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Tropical Storm Ian, currently churning in the Caribbean, is expected to become a hurricane by Monday and make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast by Thursday. However, the entire state is in a cone showing the likely path of the storm’s center—which includes NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Given the uncertainties of the forecast, NASA on Saturday decided to abandon Tuesday’s planned launch attempt and instead prepare the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket for a possible return to its hangar. Managers will decide on Sunday whether to remove it from the launch pad.
If the rocket remains on the pad, NASA could attempt a launch on October 2, the last opportunity before the two-week blackout period. But a rollback late Sunday or early Monday would mean a long delay for the test flight, possibly pushing it into November.
The Space Launch System rocket is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA. Assuming that its first test flight goes well, the astronauts will board the next mission in 2024, making a two-person moon landing in 2025.
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