Imagine bringing a $4.1 billion Moon rocket again on the pad after weeks of waiting, checks, and little adjustments; everything is set and ready for the launch, and you wear your best shirt for the event but… After being promoted to hurricane class, a rare tropical storm decides to join the party.
On pad 39B, the giant orange beast fought very well the force of the strong wind and the heavy rain: sensors recorded gusts as high as 160km/h (100 mph) atop a 140 meters tall lightning tower near the rocket. But winds at the 20-meters-level, which are part of the booster’s structural certification, peaked at 132km/h (82 mph), just below the 136 km/h (85 mph) limit. So close to avoiding significant structural damages.
After first sight, engineers found only “minor damage” on the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft; Jim Free, the NASA associate administrator for exploration systems development, stated that the eventual repairs or lost time for pre-launch preparations because of the storm wouldn’t further delay the launch.
Our teams met today to review analysis and overnight operations while we continued #Artemis I’s launch countdown. Proud of the team for working on yesterday’s actions so diligently. We’re proceeding towards tanking tomorrow afternoon and a launch attempt at 1:04AM ET on Nov 16. pic.twitter.com/snJLcpBNP6— Jim Free (@JimFree) November 15, 2022
A new launch date
On November 8, NASA said it would not attempt a launch on November 14 as planned; the uncrewed flight test launch is currently targeted for November 16 at 7:04 a.m. CET, with November 19 as a backup date.
Someone could have rightly suggested rolling back the rockets to the pad before the storm, but given the high approaching speed of Nicole, the safest place for SLS was the pad and not the giant platform – on top of the Crawler transporter – between 39B and VAB.
Now the only thing left is to cross every finger available and hope for a safe launch!