The storm is threatening NASA’s Artemis 1 moon-rocket.
The Artemis1 stack, a Space Launch System (SLS), rocket carrying an Orion crew capsule, was launched by the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Launch Pad 39B at 11:20 p.m. ET (0320 GMT on September 27).
Artemis 1 is heading to KSC’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where it will be protected from Hurricane Ian if the storm hits Florida’s Atlantic coast. It is expected that the approximately 4-mile (6.4 km) journey to VAB will take around 11 hours.
Artemis 1 is not the first to roll back; Artemis 1 also left Pad 39B for VAB in April, July and July this year after performing fueling tests. Orion and the SLS made it back to Pad 39B in mid-August, ahead of a liftoff attempt scheduled for Aug. 29.
This attempt was thwarted by technical difficulties. A hydrogen propellant leak halted a subsequent launch attempt on Sept. 3. The Artemis 1 team repaired the leak and began preparing for a second attempt on Tuesday, Sept. 27. But Hurricane Ian intervened.
Although it is unclear if Ian will actually hammer Florida’s Atlantic coast, the latest models show the storm focusing on the Sunshine State’s Gulf side. NASA decided to take Artemis 1 into the VAB, but this was Monday morning (Sept. 26).
Artemis 1 team members stated that they will likely do some maintenance work once they reach the VAB. This includes setting up the batteries (opens in new window) to support the mission’s flight termination systems (FTS), which are designed to destroy any SLS that veers off-course during launch.
Initial certification of FTS batteries was limited to 20 days at the launch pad. This time period has since expired. The U.S. The U.S. Space Force oversees the Eastern Range rocket launch operations and granted two extensions to certification. These extended certificates covered Artemis 1 liftoffs through October at most. NASA officials stated that it is sensible to reset FTS batteries if the vehicle has already been at the VAB.
It is too early to speculate on a new Artemis 1 launch date. We’ll have to wait to hear more from NASA.