The launch of Artemis I is suspended again: a storm threatens Florida

Artemis I will no longer be released on September 27. It is being evaluated to place it in a safekeeping in the assembly building.


NASA has called off Tuesday’s scheduled launch of its Artemis I unmanned mission to the moon due to Tropical Storm Ian , which is expected to strengthen as it approaches Florida .

After two previously canceled launch attempts, the US space agency is considering returning the rocket to its assembly site in the face of extreme weather conditions.

” NASA is abandoning a launch opportunity on Tuesday, September 27 (…), while continuing to monitor the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian , ” the US space agency said.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) indicated that Ian will “rapidly intensify” over the weekend as it moves toward Florida , home to the Kennedy Space Center, from where the gigantic SLS (Space Launch System) rocket will be launched.

The orange and white SLS rocket, 98 meters high, can withstand wind gusts of up to 137 km/h on its launch pad. But if it is shelved, it will miss the current release window, which runs until October 4.

The Artemis I team must decide on Sunday whether to return the rocket to the assembly building “to allow for additional data collection and analysis.” If successful, the operation will begin that same night or Monday morning, NASA said .

Jim Free, associate administrator for the space agency’s exploration systems development directorate, said on Twitter that the “step-by-step approach” to deciding whether or not to retire the rocket preserves “a launch opportunity if conditions improve,” indicating that a release date in the next ten days is still on the table.

Otherwise, the next launch window for the SLS, a megarocket developed for more than a decade, will be from October 17 to 31, with one lift-off possibility per day, except for 24-26 and 28.

The Artemis I mission seeks to test the SLS , as well as the unmanned Orion capsule above it, in preparation for future trips to the Moon with humans on board.

A successful mission will be a huge relief for NASA after years of delays and cost overruns.

But a further setback would be a blow to the space agency, which had to scrap two previous launch attempts due to technical failures as the rocket experienced technical failures, including a fuel leak

Artemis, sister of Apollo

The Artemis mission is named after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, after whom the first lunar missions were named.

Unlike the Apollo missions, which sent only white men to the Moon between 1969 and 1972, the Artemis will see the first black person and the first woman to set foot on the lunar surface.

One of the main goals of the mission is to test the Orion capsule’s heat shield, the largest ever built. On its return to the Earth’s atmosphere, it will have to withstand a speed of 40,000 km/h and a temperature equivalent to half that recorded on the surface of the sun.

For this first mission, Orion will venture up to 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon.

The next mission, Artemis 2 , scheduled for 2024, will transport astronauts, but will not land on the moon. That honor will be reserved for the crew of Artemis 3 , which will be released no earlier than 2025.

After that, NASA hopes to do about one mission a year.

The US agency’s plan is to build a space station in lunar orbit, called Gateway , and a base on the surface of the Moon.

NASA aspires to test there the technologies necessary to send the first humans to Mars: new suits, a vehicle to move or a possible use of lunar water, among other objectives.

According to space agency director Bill Nelson, a multi-year round trip to Mars aboard Orion could be attempted in the late 2030s.

The cost of the Artemis program is estimated to reach $93 billion by 2025, with its first four missions logging a whopping $4.1 billion each, according to a government audit. (AFP)