KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – All eyes are on Florida's Space Coast to see history in the making Monday as NASA attempts to launch a mega moon rocket on a 37-day mission that will orbit the moon and return back to Earth.
The window for the third launch attempt of the Space System Rocket and Orion Spacecraft is expected to open at 5:12 p.m. on September 5.
Weather officers with the Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron continue to monitor a easterly flow off the Atlantic, which is expected to produce scattered showers and thunderstorms but the majority of the activity will be inland.
The weather for the backup date is 70% favorable, but there is more uncertainty with that forecast, Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said, because a ridge will likely be over the space center on Monday evening.
Forecasters believe cumulus clouds and lightning could still be a threat and have given the rocket a 70% launch probability at the start of the window.
"The later timing of the launch window Monday should allow a decent period of favorable weather as the Spaceport basks in the subsidence behind the departed sea-breeze boundary," according to the 45th Weather Squadron's latest forecast.
NASA’s first attempt to launch the Artemis 1 moon rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday hit a few snags during the countdown that caused the launch director to scrub the lift-off until a bleed issue with a rocket engine can be addressed and fixed.
It is summer in Florida, and any storms that roll in create increased cloud coverage, rain and lightning. This is problematic for the Space Launch System rocket, which cannot fly through rain or clouds. Launch weather officers will be looking to thread the needle for the launch.
The SLS can only launch under specific weather criteria, including constraints regarding temperature, wind, rain, cloud cover and lightning.
The 322-foot-tall rocket requires more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic fuel. Teams will not begin tanking the rocket with fuel if the temperature is more than 94.5 degrees Fahrenheit above 132.5 feet. Tanking cannot start under 41.4 degrees, but that won't be a problem for this August launch window.
The SLS cannot launch through rain, and liftoff will be delayed if winds are between 29 and 39 knots (33 and 44 mph) above 132.5 feet.
Upper-level winds are also a factor. The rocket will not launch if mission managers believe winds could create a problem for the launch vehicle during ascent.
Cumulus cloud cover within a 10 nautical mile range could also delay the launch, depending on the clouds' type, distance and height. The launch director will not allow the countdown to continue if the SLS flight path is within 3 nautical miles of a thunderstorm debris cloud.
The launch complex must also be lightning-free for 30 minutes after lightning within 10 nautical miles is observed.
Lightning near the Kennedy Space Center delayed the SLS rollout to the launchpad last week. After it cleared, teams completed the 4-mile journey to launchpad 39B.
This story will be updated with new forecasts daily leading up to the Sept. 3 Artemis 1 launch.
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