Approaching storm may delay launch try for NASA moon rocket
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Approachingstorm may delay launch try for NASA moon rocket
Anapproaching storm threatens to delay NASA’s next launch attempt for its newmoon rocket, already grounded for weeks by fuel leaks. A tropicaldepression in the southern Caribbean is moving toward Florida and could becomea major hurricane.
Managerson Friday declared that the rocket is now ready to blast off on its first testflight, afterovercoming more hydrogen leaks during a fueling test earlier in the week. Itwill be the first time a crew capsule orbits the moon in 50 years; the spacecraftwill carry mannequins but no astronauts.
Teams willkeep monitoring the forecast and decide no later than Saturday whether to notonly delay the test flight, but haul the rocket off the pad and back to thehangar. It’s unclear when the next launch attempt would be — whether October oreven November — if the rocket must seek shelter indoors.
Thepreference is to remain at the launch pad and try for a Tuesday liftoff, “butthere are still some uncertainties in the forecast,” said NASA’s TomWhitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems. It takesthree days of preparations to get the rocket back into Kennedy Space Center’smammoth Vehicle Assembly Building, a 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) trip lastingseveral hours.
This wouldbe the third launch attempt for the Space Launch System rocket, the mostpowerful ever built by NASA. Fuel leaks and other technical problemsscrapped the first two tries, in late August and early September.
Managerssaid that the 30-year space shuttle program also saw plenty of hydrogen fuelleaks and hurricane-related rollbacks. The moon rocket’s main engines areactually upgraded versions of what flew on shuttles.
Also, theSpace Force has extended the certification of on-board batteries that are partof the flight safety system — at least through the beginning of October.
NASA hasjust two chances to launch the rocket — Tuesday and Oct. 2 — before a two-weekblackout period begins. The next launch period would open Oct. 17. Astronautswould climb aboard for the second test flight around the moon in 2024. Thethird mission, targeted for 2025, would see a pair of astronauts landing on themoon.