Nasa officially delays Artemis I moon mission rocket launch to November

Nasa officially delays Artemis I moon mission rocket launch to November

Nasa has officially pushed back the launch of the Artemis I moon mission to mid-November in the wake of Hurricane Ian’s destructive impact on southern states including Florida.

The American space agency announced on Friday that it is now working towards a launch period that opens between 12 and 27 November.

Hurricane Ian had weakened to a tropical storm by the time it reached the Nasa Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week.

Nonetheless, Nasa moved the Artemis I mission Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket and the Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building to wait out the storm.

After conducting inspections on Friday to assess the impacts of the hurricane, Nasa said it did not find any damage to Artemis flight hardware, adding that facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion in a few locations.

Teams are planning to conduct additional inspections and prepare for the next launch attempt.

This includes retesting the flight termination system, and analysing the scope of work while the rocket is in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), as well as identifying a specific date for the next launch attempt, Nasa noted.

So far, the Artemis I mission has faced multiple setbacks, including fuel leaks, engine troubles, a building fire, and most recently the category 4 hurricane as Nasa attempts to launch before the end of the year.

The first launch attempt on 29 August was scrubbed due to engine cooling problems and a subsequent attempt on 3 September was also cancelled due to a hydrogen fuel leak.

Nasa then made repairs to the rocket and demonstrated it wouldn’t leak hydrogen in a test on 21 September.

Just as the space agency was assessing the feasibility of attempting launch again last week, Hurricane Ian hit.

With the Category 4 hurricane sustaining winds of about 250 kph (155 mph), Nasa decided to roll the rocket back into its hangar.

Then a fire alarm was triggered in the VAB due to an electrical problem igniting a rope which led to the evacuation of the rocket hangar.

Nasa confirmed on Friday that there was no damage to Artemis flight hardware and that facilities are in good shape.

The space agency will attempt to launch again in mid-November but the exact date has not been decided yet.

“Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch,” the space agency said in a statement.