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The Artemis I rocket will get its third launch attempt on Tuesday, September 27, but Tropical Depression Nine could change that.
The 70-minute launch window opens at 11:37 a.m. ET and the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft continue to sit on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Concerns about the weather system formed in the Caribbean made weather conditions favorable only 20% for the launch. The current path of the Tropical Depression puts the storm on track to affect Cuba and Florida early next week.
Given the uncertainty in the storm’s path, intensity, and time of arrival, the Artemis team will use the latest data to inform their decision, according to Mike Bolger, program manager for NASA’s Earth Exploration Systems.
The Artemis team is watching the weather closely and will make a decision on Saturday.
“Deep tropical moisture will seep through the space port on Tuesday, with extensive cloud cover and scattered rain likely during the launch window,” according to a forecast published by the US Space Force on Friday.
The restrictions in place require that the Artemis I mission not fly through any precipitation. The launch restrictions are designed to avoid natural and missile lightning strikes on missiles in flight, which can cause damage to the missile and endanger public safety, according to the Space Force.
Rocket lightning forms when a large rocket flies through an electric field strong enough in the atmosphere, so a cloud that doesn’t produce normal lightning can cause rocket lightning, according to the Space Force.
If the rocket group needs to return to the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center, the process could take several days.
The missile stack can remain in the platform and withstand winds of up to 85 miles per hour (74.1 knots). Bolger said that if the stack needs to return to the building, it can handle sustained winds of less than 46 mph (40 knots).
Meanwhile, the Artemis team is encouraged after a “really successful tank test,” and “the missile looks good for upcoming launch attempts,” said John Blevins, chief SLS engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
A critical fuel test of the giant lunar rocket met all of its goals on Wednesday, despite two separate hydrogen leaks.
The purpose of the cooling demonstration was to test the replaced seals and use updated “gentler” loading procedures for the ultra-cooled propellant the rocket would test on launch day.
NASA engineers discovered a liquid hydrogen leak during testing that had the “same signature” as the leak that prevented the launch attempt on September 3. However, troubleshooting efforts allowed the team to manage the leak.
The team was able to completely fill the core stage with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. They also completed an engine bleed test, which tunes all four engines down and cools them down before launch. (The expedition team canceled the first attempt to launch Artemis I on August 29 due to a defective sensor issue that occurred during bleeding.)
Hydrogen leak detected on the 4-inch quick disconnect line of the engine bleed exceeded the 4% threshold during pre-compression testing. This rapid separation line transports liquid hydrogen from the engines after they have run through the engines and cooled them. But the dropout rate decreased on its own.
Additionally, the Artemis team received approval from the Space Force for a launch attempt on September 27 and a backup date of October 2.
The Space Force oversees all missile launches from the East Coast of the United States, including NASA’s Florida launch site, and this area is known as the East Range. Range officials are tasked with making sure there is no danger to people or property on any launch attempt.
After receiving detailed data from NASA, the Space Force issued a waivers on launch dates.
The inaugural mission of the Artemis program will begin NASA’s space exploration phase that aims to land various astronaut crews in previously unexplored regions of the moon – on the Artemis II and Artemis III missions, scheduled for 2024 and 2025 respectively – and eventually deliver manned missions To Mars.
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