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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 forming in the Caribbean put weather conditions just 20% favorable for a launch. The tropical depression’s current track puts the storm on track to impact Cuba and Florida early next week.
Given the uncertainty of the storm’s track, intensity and arrival time, the Artemis team will use the latest data to inform its decision, said Mike Bolger, Exploration Ground Systems program manager. from NASA.
The Artemis team is monitoring the weather closely and will make a decision on Saturday.
“Deep tropical humidity will sweep over the spaceport on Tuesday, with widespread cloud cover and scattered showers likely during the launch window,” according to a forecast released Friday by the US Space Force.
Launch constraints require that the Artemis I mission not fly over any precipitation. Launch restraints are designed to prevent natural and rocket-triggered lightning strikes on rockets in flight, which could damage the rocket and endanger public safety, according to the Space Force.
Rocket-triggered lightning forms when a large rocket flies through a strong enough atmospheric electric field, so a cloud that doesn’t produce natural lightning could still cause rocket-triggered lightning, according to the Space Force. .
If the stack of rockets needs to be brought back to Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, the process could take several days.
The rocket stack can stay on pad and withstand winds of up to 85 miles per hour (74.1 knots). If the pile has to go back into the building, it can handle sustained winds of less than 46 miles per hour (40 knots), Bolger said.
Meanwhile, the Artemis team is encouraged after “a really successful tanking test” and “the rocket is showing up well for future launch attempts,” said John Blevins, SLS chief engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center in Washington. NASA in Huntsville, Alabama.
The crucial refueling test for the mega moon rocket met all its objectives on Wednesday, despite two separate hydrogen leaks that occurred.
The purpose of the cryogenic demonstration was to test the replaced seals and use updated, “softer and smoother” loading procedures of the super cold propellant the rocket would experience on launch day.
NASA engineers detected a leak of liquid hydrogen during the test that had “the same signature” as a leak that prevented the September 3 launch attempt. However, their troubleshooting efforts enabled the team to manage the leak.
The team was able to completely fill the central stage with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. They also performed an engine purge test, which conditions all four engines and lowers their temperatures before launch. (The mission team scrubbed Artemis I’s first launch attempt on August 29 largely because of an issue with a faulty sensor that occurred during bleeding.)
A hydrogen leak detected on the 4-inch quick disconnect line for the engine purge went above the 4% threshold during a pre-pressurization test. This quick disconnect line carries the liquid hydrogen out of the engines after passing through the engines and cooling them. But the leak rate went down on its own.
Additionally, Team Artemis received Space Force approval for the September 27 launch attempt and a backup date of October 2.
The Space Force oversees all rocket launches from the East Coast of the United States, including the NASA launch site in Florida, and this area is known as the Eastern Range. Range managers are responsible for ensuring that there is no risk to persons or property during any launch attempt.
After receiving detailed data from NASA, the Space Force issued a waiver for launch dates.
The inaugural mission of the Artemis program will launch a phase of NASA space exploration that aims to land diverse crews of astronauts in previously unexplored regions of the moon – on the Artemis II and Artemis III missions, scheduled for 2024 and 2025, respectively – and possibly delivering crewed missions to Mars.
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