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NASA moon rocket back in hangar, launch unlikely until November

NASA’s moon rocket returned to the safety of its hangar on Tuesday as Hurricane Ian approached Florida.

NASA’s moon rocket returned to the safety of its hangar on Tuesday as Hurricane Ian approached Florida, launching now unlikely before mid-November.

Rather than try to send it on its first test flight, the launch team moved the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket off the path at Kennedy Space Center. The four-mile (6.4 kilometers) journey took all night.

NASA official Jim Free said it would be difficult to upgrade the rocket and bring it back to the pad for an October launch attempt. Installing new batteries is particularly challenging, Free noted, making it questionable whether a launch can be attempted before the mid-to-late October launch window closes. The next two-week window would open on November 12.

The Space Launch System rocket was supposed to fire a month ago, but was delayed twice due to fuel leaks and engine problems.

Once in space, the crew capsule atop the rocket will aim for lunar orbit with three test dummies, a crucial dress rehearsal before astronauts board in 2024. The last time a capsule flew to the moon was during NASA’s Apollo 17 moon landing. in 1972.

SpaceX’s next astronaut flight to the International Space Station for NASA, meanwhile, has been delayed at least a day by the hurricane. The launch is now no earlier than next Tuesday.

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