NASA has decided to re-target a launch for the Artemis I mission for Wednesday, November 16, as the agency continues to monitor Tropical Storm Nicole. NASA wants to ensure safe conditions for employees to return to work, as well as inspections after the storm has passed. Adjusting the target launch date will allow the workforce to tend to the needs of their families and homes, and provide sufficient logistical time to get back into launch status following the storm. Previously it was scheduled for launch on November 14 at 12:07 a.m. EST.
Kennedy Space Center is currently in a HURCON (Hurricane Condition) III status, which includes securing facilities, property, and equipment at the center, as well as briefing and deploying the “ride-out” team. As part of NASA’s hurricane preparedness protocol, a “ride-out” team includes a set of personnel who will remain in a safe location at Kennedy throughout the storm to monitor center-wide conditions, including the flight hardware for the Artemis I mission. Kennedy will release non-essential personnel at the HURCON II status as the agency continues to prioritize its employees in the Kennedy area.
Based on expected weather conditions and options to roll back ahead of the storm, the agency determined Sunday evening the safest option for the launch hardware was to keep the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft secured at the pad.
The SLS rocket is designed to withstand 85 mph (74.4 knot) winds at the 60-foot level with structural margin. Current forecasts predict the greatest risks at the pad are high winds that are not expected to exceed the SLS design. The rocket is designed to withstand heavy rains at the launch pad and the spacecraft hatches have been secured to prevent water intrusion.
In preparation for the storm, teams have powered down the Orion spacecraft, SLS core stage, interim cryogenic propulsion stage, and boosters. Engineers have also installed a hard cover over the launch abort system window, retracted and secured the crew access arm on the mobile launcher and configured the settings for the environmental control system on the spacecraft and rocket elements. Teams also are securing nearby hardware and performing walkdowns for potential debris in the area.
Teams are poised to resume work as soon as weather and Kennedy center status allows. Once back on-site, technicians will perform walkdowns and inspections at the pad to assess the status of the rocket and spacecraft as soon as practicable.
A launch during a two-hour window that opens at 1:04 a.m. EST on November 16 would result in a splashdown on Friday, December 11. If needed, NASA has a backup launch opportunity on Saturday, November 19, and will coordinate with the U.S. Space Force for additional launch opportunities.
The agency continues to rely on the most up-to-date information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center throughout its evaluations and continues to closely monitor conditions for the Kennedy area.