NASA’s New Moon Rocket Tested by Hurricane Force on Florida Launch Pad – Times of India


NASA’s $4 billion new moon rocket endured strong winds and heavy rain early Thursday as it pushed out of Hurricane Nicole on its Florida launch pad, apparently with only minor damage, according to an early NASA inspection in the wake of the storm.
Sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (136.8 kph) were measured by sensors at the launch site hundreds of feet above the ground, with gusts of 100 mph, testing the design limits of the 32-story rocket and adding additional risks to a spacecraft already beset with technical issues that have delayed its debut launch.
The measurements from NASA’s wind sensors are made available to the public online by the US National Weather Service. The rocket is designed to withstand exposure on the launch pad to wind speeds of up to 85 mph, US Space Agency officials said before the storm.
In a brief message posted on Twitter by NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free, the agency acknowledged wind sensor readings from 60-foot-high gusts peaking at 82 mph.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported Nicole’s maximum sustained ground wind speeds of 75 mph, with higher gusts, when it made landfall south of the Kennedy Space Center launch site in Cape Canaveral before dawn Thursday.
Instead of trying to roll the crowd Space Launch System (SLS) rocket back to its hangar before the hurricane hit, NASA had chosen to crash the vehicle on the launch pad where it arrived last week before Nicole emerged in the forecast as a tropical storm.
The SLS and its Orion capsule were being prepared for a third launch attempt — after two aborted countdowns in late summer — that would mark their highly anticipated maiden flight and the inaugural mission of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program.
NASA engineers reasoned that attempting to transport the massive rocket, a 12-hour undertaking, in high winds as the storm approached, was too risky.
“Camera inspections show very minor damage such as loose sealant and cracks in the weather cover,” Free, who oversees much of the agency’s Artemis program, tweeted Thursday afternoon. “The team will conduct additional on-site inspections of the vehicle shortly.”
NASA rolled out SLS to its launch pad last Thursday for a scheduled launch on November 14, aiming to perform a much-delayed debut test flight to the moon without people on board.
“Even at that time, there was always a concern that somewhere in the Caribbean would be a favored area for at least some development of a tropical system,” he said. Mark Burgerlaunch weather officer with the 45th Weather Squadron of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
“Of course there was nothing at the time, so you can just go with the probabilistic aspect,” he added.
Nicole took shape as a potential tropical storm when SLS arrived on the trail about 4 miles from where it was stored in NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA Tuesday postponed the rocket’s target launch date to Nov. 16, when weather officials predicted Nicole would grow into a hurricane.
A NASA spokesperson said on Thursday that the agency has not ruled out a November 16 launch, but added: “It is premature to confirm the launch date as we have just begun to bring personnel out for inspections.

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