NASA's DART mission prepares for asteroid collision

Artemis’ next launch attempt is scheduled for Tuesday, but could be delayed due to tropical depression

The 70-minute launch window opened at 11:37 a.m. ET, and the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft continued to sit on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Concerns about a weather system forming in the Caribbean have left weather conditions only 20 percent favorable for the launch. The tropical depression’s current path puts the storm on track to affect Cuba and Florida early next week.

Mike Bolger, NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program manager, said the Artemis team will use the latest data to make decisions given the uncertainty about the storm’s trajectory, intensity and arrival time.

The Artemis team is closely monitoring weather conditions and will make a decision on Saturday.

“Deep tropical moisture will overflow the spaceport on Tuesday, with the possibility of extensive cloud cover and sporadic showers during the launch window,” according to a forecast released by the U.S. Space Force on Friday.

Launch constraints require the Artemis 1 mission to not experience any precipitation. According to the Space Force, the launch limits are designed to avoid natural and rocket-triggered lightning strikes to rockets in flight, which could cause damage to the rockets and endanger public safety.

According to the Space Force, rocket-triggered lightning occurs when a large rocket flies through a strong enough atmospheric electric field, so clouds that don’t produce natural lightning can still cause rocket-triggered lightning.

If the rocket stack needs to be rolled back to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, the process could take days.

The rocket stack can stay on the mat and withstand winds of up to 85 miles per hour (74.1 knots). If the stack needs to be rolled back into the building, it can handle sustained winds below 46 miles per hour (40 knots), Bolger said.

Evaluate key figures

Meanwhile, John Blevins, SLS chief engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said the Artemis team was encouraged after “a very successful fuel tank test” and ” The rocket looks like a good fit for the upcoming launch attempt.”

Despite two separate hydrogen leaks, a key fuel test for the giant lunar rocket achieved all goals on Wednesday.

The purpose of the cryogenic demonstration was to test the replaced seals and use a newer, “milder, gentler” loading procedure for the ultra-cold propellant that the rocket will experience on launch day.

NASA engineers detected a liquid hydrogen leak during testing that had “the same characteristics” as the leak that prevented the Sept. 3 launch attempt. However, their 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 exhaust test, conditioning the four engines and lowering the temperature before launch. (The mission team canceled the first Artemis I launch attempt on Aug. 29, largely due to a sensor malfunction that occurred during the bleed.)

During the pre-pressurization test, a hydrogen leak above the 4% threshold was detected on the 4-inch engine bleed air quick disconnect line. This quick disconnect line drains the liquid hydrogen from the engine after it has passed through the engine and cooled. But the leak rate will decrease on its own.

Additionally, the Artemis team has received approval from the Space Force to conduct a launch attempt on September 27, with a backup on October 2.

The Space Force oversees all rocket launches from the U.S. east coast, including NASA’s Florida launch site, an area known as the Eastern Range. Officials at the range are tasked with ensuring that any launch attempt poses no risk to people or property.

After receiving detailed data from NASA, the Space Force issued a waiver for the launch date.

The Artemis program’s first mission will kick off a phase of NASA’s space exploration aimed at landing different astronauts on previously unexplored regions of the moon — with Artemis II and Artemis III missions in 2024 and 2025, respectively — and eventually A manned mission to Mars.

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