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NASA returns Artemis Rocket to Hangar

NASA will return its Artemis rocket and spacecraft to its primary hangar, ending any chance of launch in the coming days.

NASA will return its Artemis rocket and spacecraft to its primary hangar as Hurricane Ian Florida approaches, ending any chance of launch in the coming days.

The move means the next attempt to launch the already-delayed mission is likely to take place in late October or mid-November, according to a US space agency schedule. Program officials had hoped to start on October 2 before the latest change.

NASA announced the decision Monday, as the latest predictions for Hurricane Ian showed no improved conditions for the launch site at Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast. “The decision gives employees time to meet the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system,” NASA wrote in a blog post.

The rollback starts at 11 PM local time.

NASA withdrew this weekend from a launch attempt that could have happened on Tuesday because of the tropical storm off the coast of South America. That storm, which has since strengthened into Hurricane Ian, is expected to make landfall in Florida this week.

NASA had completed a major fuel test on Sept. 21 of its Space Launch System rocket, the massive vehicle that will send an unmanned capsule around the moon. The tank test was designed to determine if NASA had successfully fixed a leak that hindered an attempt to launch the rocket on Sept. 3. NASA said the test met all of its objectives, despite leaks and technical issues that arose.

As late as Friday, NASA had hoped that a launch attempt for September 27 was possible, despite the weather forecast.

The SLS missile is designed to handle wind gusts of up to 74 knots on the launch pad. It takes NASA about three days to prepare the SLS and return it to the Vehicle Assembly Building, a huge hangar used to house the rocket.

The SLS is a primary part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman and first person of color to the moon. NASA is gearing up to launch the SLS on its debut flight dubbed Artemis I, sending an unmanned capsule called Orion around the moon. The mission is to validate the hardware before people can fly on board.

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