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NASA’s Artemis 1 rocket could experience damaging winds as storm approaches

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The Artemis I mission, which is expected to send an unmanned spacecraft on an experimental mission around the Moon, has been postponed again, as NASA’s Space Launch System encounters Tropical Storm Nicole, which is now expected to Strengthening in a hurricane before hitting the east coast of Florida.

The space agency was targeting November 14 for its third launch attempt, but is now looking forward to November 16, “pending safe conditions for employees to return to work, as well as inspections after the storm has passed,” NASA said in a statement Tuesday evening. . November 16 will introduce a two-hour launch window that opens at 1:04 a.m. ET

CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller noted that the rocket, often referred to as the SLS, is sitting on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, which is just north of where the storm’s center is expected to make landfall. This means that the region can expect some of the strongest winds that the system will carry.

If the hurricane is 75 mph (120 kph) as a Category 1 hurricane, as expected, it could gust between 80 and 90 mph (130 to 145 kph), according to Miller. This could mean that the missile will be exposed to winds above the predetermined limits of what the missile can withstand. Officials said the SLS is designed to withstand wind gusts of up to 85 mph (137 kph).

“Furthermore, the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Florida, forecast maximum winds early Thursday morning at 86 mph,” Miller added. “So yes, it’s entirely possible for wind gusts to exceed this limit.”

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The latest report from the National Hurricane Center also gives a 15% chance that Cocoa Beach, located about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the launch site, will withstand sustained hurricane-force winds.

However, NASA said in its statement, “Forecasts predict that the biggest risks to the platform are high winds that are not expected to exceed the design of the SLS.”

“The missile is designed to withstand heavy rain at the launch pad, and the spacecraft’s hatches have been secured to prevent water leakage,” the statement added.

The space agency decided to launch the SLS rocket on the launch pad last week, as the storm was still there An unnamed system brews off the East Coast. At the time, officials were expecting this storm to bring sustained winds of about 25 knots (29 mph) with gusts of up to 40 knots (46 mph), which were considered within pre-established limits of what the missile could withstand. , according to Mark Berger, weather official at launch in the US The Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, at a NASA news conference Nov.

“The National Hurricane Center has a 30% chance of becoming a designated storm,” Burger said last Thursday. “However, nevertheless, the models are very consistent in developing some kind of low pressure.”

But the storm evolved into a eponymous system on Monday, three days after the missile was launched on the launch pad.

The strength of the storm is extraordinary, with Nicole expected to be the first hurricane to hit the United States in November in nearly 40 years.

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In preparation for the storm, NASA said its teams have dropped the Orion spacecraft, which sits atop the SLS rocket, along with the rocket’s side boosters and other components.

According to the statement, the engineers also installed a rigid cover over the launch abortion system window, pulled the crew access lever and secured it to the mobile launcher and adjusted the environmental control system settings on the spacecraft and missile elements. “Teams are also working to secure nearby devices and conduct walk-ins for potential debris in the area.”

Kennedy Space Center announced on Twitter feed Tuesday that “is in the event of HURICON III and continues to prepare for the next storm while taking prudent precautions across all of our programs, activities, and workforce before the storm.”

Preparations for HURICON III include “securing facilities, property, and equipment” as well as deploying a ride team, a team that will be on site to assess any damages.

The SLS missile was hidden for weeks after fuel leakage problems thwarted the first two launches and then Rolling Hurricane Ian Florida, forcing the missile to evacuate the launch pad in September.

NASA officials returned the rocket to the launch pad last week With the goal of working toward a third launch attempt on November 14. It is not clear how or whether the storm could affect these plans.

The overall goal of NASA’s Artemis program is to return humans to the moon for the first time in half a century. The Artemis I mission – expected to be the first of many – will lay the groundwork, testing the rocket, spacecraft and all their subsystems to ensure they are safe enough for astronauts to travel to the moon and back.

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