NASA has confirmed that its next attempt to launch the Artemis I mission will be at night, with a launch scheduled for midnight in the early hours of Monday, November 14. After a difficult few months trying to launch a Space Launch System rocket from Earth for the first time, including several drills, previous launch attempts, tank testing, and a cutoff from a hurricane, the rocket will begin to roll back for a Pad 39B launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after midnight Friday, November 4th.
The night launch meant low visibility, and NASA representatives said they would have preferred the daytime launch. However, the team was confident that the night launch could safely and meet all mission requirements, said Jim Frey, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. For a general audience, a nightly launch means the show won’t be as good, but some visuals should still be available.
“We have infrared cameras. We’re going to get some visuals — the big fire coming from the back will also help us light things up,” Frey said on a media conference call.
The goal of the unmanned launch on November 14 is to test the new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft by sending them on a flight around the Moon ahead of crewed missions.
The last launch attempt was canceled in late September because Hurricane Ian, which hit the Florida coast, required the rocket from the launch pad to a building called the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), several miles away.
“When we had to pull back from the hurricane, I’ll tell you it was a disappointment,” said Cliff Lanham, senior director of vehicle operations for the Kennedy Ground Exploration Systems Program.
Having stayed in the building for the past few weeks, the rocket will now make the four-mile journey from the VAB to the launch pad, carrying a 6.6 million pound machine called the crawler in a flight that typically takes between 8 and 12 hours.
As always with missile launches, weather is a factor in how safe a launch can be. Weather looks good for start-up tonight, but over the weekend, they will be watching an area of low pressure develop near Puerto Rico, Met Officer Mark Burger of the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron said. There is about a 30 percent chance that this system will develop into a storm, which could bring rain and winds of up to 40 knots over the Florida coast, but Burger said those conditions are within acceptable parameters for a start-up.
There are also concerns about the lifespan of rocket boosters, such as the joints that connect the booster parts It only lasts a certain amount of time After stacking, the booster batteries will only be charged for three months. The boosters were originally approved to last 12 months after stacking, a schedule that ended in January 2022, but their life has since been extended to 23 months with the first part ending on December 9. If the missile is not launched before this date, the agency will have to conduct another assessment to see if the parts are still usable.
If there are any issues with the November 14 release date, there are backup opportunities available on November 16 and 19.
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