NASA delays moon rocket launch due to potential hurricane

NASA is skipping its New Moon rocket launch attempt next week because of a tropical storm that is expected to become a major hurricane.

It is the third delay in the past month for the lunar orbit test flight with mannequins but no astronauts, a continuation of NASA’s Apollo lunar landing program half a century ago. Hydrogen leaks and other technical problems caused the previous scrubs.

Tropical Storm Ian, currently raging in the Caribbean, is expected to become a hurricane by Monday and make landfall in Florida’s Gulf Coast by Thursday. However, the entire state is in the cone that shows the likely path of the storm’s center — including NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Given the uncertainties in the forecast, NASA decided on Saturday to forgo Tuesday’s planned launch attempt and instead prepare the 98-meter rocket for a possible return to its hangar. Managers will decide on Sunday whether to take it off the launch pad.

If the rocket stays on the pad, NASA could make an Oct. 2 launch attempt, the last opportunity before a two-week lockdown. But a rollback late Sunday or early Monday would likely mean a long delay for the test flight, possibly pushing it into November.

The Space Launch System rocket is the most powerful ever built by NASA. Assuming the first test flight goes well, astronauts would board for the next mission in 2024, resulting in a two-person moon landing in 2025.


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