NASA has begun to assess how properly its Artemis 1 moon rocket weathered a strong storm that hit its Florida spaceport at present..
That maelstrom was Nicole, which slammed into Florida’s Space Coast Thursday morning (Nov. 10) as a Category 1 hurricane however weakened to a tropical storm because it moved inland. Nicole’s wind and rain lashed the Artemis 1 car, which is sitting atop Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
The Artemis 1 stack — a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket topped by an Orion crew capsule — seems to have made it by way of the ordeal largely unscathed, in accordance to NASA officers.
“Our team is conducting initial visual checkouts of the rocket, spacecraft and ground system equipment with the cameras at the launch pad,” Jim Free, affiliate 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 caulk and tears in weather coverings,” he added. “The team will conduct additional onsite walkdown inspections of the vehicle soon.”
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Sensors at Pad 39B recorded peak wind gusts of 82 mph (132 kph) at an altitude of 60 ft (18 meters) throughout Nicole’s passage, Free mentioned.
Those wind speeds are “within the rocket’s capability,” he famous. “We anticipate clearing the vehicle for those conditions shortly.”
Indeed, SLS is designed to deal with winds up to 85 mph (137 kph) on the 60-foot degree “with structural margin,” NASA officers mentioned in a statement on Tuesday (Nov. 8).
Artemis 1 will ship Orion on an uncrewed journey to lunar orbit and again. NASA is gearing up to launch the mission as quickly as Wednesday (Nov. 16). It’s unclear if Nicole has modified that calculus; Free’s Twitter publish did not point out the schedule or any attainable adjustments to it.
Weather has already saved Artemis 1 on the bottom longer than initially deliberate. The mission was supposed to fly in late September, however NASA rolled SLS and Orion off Pad 39B and again to KSC’s cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building to shelter from Hurricane Ian.
Artemis 1 rolled again out to the pad on Nov. 4. Nicole’s method induced NASA to push the deliberate launch again by two days, from Nov. 14 to Nov. 16. But mission workforce members opted to maintain the rocket on the pad by way of the landfall of the storm, which grew to be significantly stronger than early forecasts had predicted.
“With the unexpected change to the forecast, returning to the Vehicle Assembly Building was deemed to be too risky in high winds, and the team decided the launch pad was the safest place for the rocket to weather the storm,” Free mentioned.
As its identify suggests, Artemis 1 is the primary mission in NASA’s Artemis program of moon exploration.
If all goes properly on Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts on a mission across the moon as early as 2024. Artemis 3 will then put boots down close to the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026, if present schedules maintain.
Mike Wall is the writer of “(*1*) (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e book concerning the seek for alien 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).