Space

Fire Alarm Triggered After Artemis I Rocket Rolled Back in Advance of Hurricane Ian

NASA Artemis I SLS Rocket Returns to VAB Ahead of Hurricane Ian

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher as it returns to the Vehicle Assembly Building from Launch Pad 39B, Tuesday, September 27, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA made the decision to rollback based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian. NASA’s Artemis I mission is the first integrated test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and supporting ground systems. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

On Monday, NASA Artemis I managers decided to roll back the Moon rocket based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian not showing improving expected conditions for the Kennedy area in Florida. At 11:21 p.m. EDT that night, the Artemis I Moon rocket left launch pad 39B atop the crawler-transporter ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ian and began its 4-mile trek to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

At approximately 9:15 a.m. EDT on Tuesday morning, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission were secured inside the VAB after completing the four-mile journey from Launch Pad 39B.

A short time later, at approximately 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, a fire alarm was triggered in the VAB. The notification came when an arc flash event occurred at a connector on an electrical panel in High Bay 3. A spark landed on a rope marking the boundary of the work area. As the rope began to smolder, workers pulled the alarm, and employees evacuated the building safely.

The incident occurred on the third floor of F-tower at the Mobile Launcher power connection. After technicians shut down power to the panel, the center’s emergency responders declared the VAB safe for employees to return to work. There were no reported injuries, and neither the Artemis I rocket nor the spacecraft was at risk. Engineers and technicians are evaluating the cause.

Hurricane Ian is expected to bring sustained tropical storm force winds to Kennedy as early as Wednesday evening. After the storm has passed, teams will conduct inspections to determine impacts at the center and establish a forward plan for the next launch attempt, including replacing the core stage flight termination system batteries and retesting the system to ensure it can terminate the flight if necessary for public safety in the event of an emergency during launch.

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