NASA's Artemis 1 isn't third time lucky; storm plays spoilsport
The third time's apparently not the charm for NASA or Artemis 1. The space agency has decided to call off the September 27 (Tuesday) launch of the moon mission. It is the weather that has turned villain this time—Tropical Storm Ian, to be specific. Heading Florida's way, it could potentially become a full-blown hurricane. Notably, the mission's launch was called off twice before this.
Why does this story matter?
- The Artemis 1 mission is NASA's first of two tests—under the Artemis program—before its grand attempt to land humans back on the Moon with the Artemis 3 in 2025.
- The mission hasn't had the best of fortunes until now. Two scrubs forced by technical glitches followed by a third one now—it's been tough.
- NASA is, however, biding its time until the perfect opportunity opens.
Tropical storm is expected to become a hurricane
NASA has been closely watching Tropical Depression 9 that developed in the Caribbean. On late Friday, the depression turned into Tropical Storm Ian. In all likelihood, it will become a hurricane by Monday and hit Florida's Gulf Coast by Thursday. NASA's Kennedy Space Center, from which the Artemis 1 mission is set to take off, is in the path of the storm, too.
What made NASA cancel the launch?
It is the uncertain weather that has forced NASA's hand this time. "We are foregoing a launch opportunity on Tuesday, September 27, and preparing for rollback while continuing to watch the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian," said the agency. A decision on the rollback will be taken on Sunday after additional data gathering and analysis.
NASA will most probably roll back the mission to VAB
However, NASA would not want to expose the multibillion-dollar Artemis 1 stack consisting of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule to the hurricane winds. Therefore, a rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is more than a possibility at the moment. If that happens, hitting the backup launch date of October 2 will also be a hard ask for the mission.
When will the next launch attempt take place?
A launch attempt on October 2 seems like a distant possibility now. But it will be the last opportunity for the mission to launch before a two-week blackout period. The next launch window will open on October 17 and last till October 31.