NASA’s Moon Rocket Exposed to Potential Hurricane on Launchpad – HT Tech

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As Tropical Storm Nicole barrels toward Florida’s East Coast, a $4 billion NASA rocket remains on a launchpad at Kennedy Space Center, where it will ride out the approaching storm.
Nicole is intensifying and is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, potentially putting the huge Space Launch System rocket at risk.
NASA estimates that the SLS can withstand wind gusts of up to 85 mph (74 knots), as well as sustained winds of 46 mph (40 knots). The agency still aims to launch the rocket and uncrewed Orion capsule to the moon on Nov. 14, the first of the agency’s Artemis missions, though it’s unclear how the storm will impact that schedule.
“Teams at Kennedy will continue to monitor the weather, make sure all personnel are safe, and will evaluate the status of the Monday, Nov. 14, launch attempt for the Artemis I mission as we proceed and receive updated predictions about the weather,” NASA wrote in a blog post.
NASA didn’t respond to a request for comment regarding specific preparations being made to secure the rocket.
The space center is at “HURCON III” status, a level of preparedness level for approaching hurricanes in which personnel work to secure the area’s facilities and hardware.
Joel Cline, the tropical program coordinator with the National Weather Service, estimates there is an 80% to 90% chance of sustained tropical force winds along Florida’s space coast, with storm winds approaching the area as early as Wednesday morning. That’s roughly about the threshold that NASA said the rocket can handle.
“What they’re telling you is they’re looking for hurricane force wind gusts, and sustained winds of tropical storm force, which is the most likely probability,” Cline said.
In September, when Hurricane Ian was headed toward NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the SLS was also out on the launchpad ahead of its planned mission. However, NASA ultimately decided to roll the rocket back to its massive hangar, called the Vehicle Assembly Building, to shelter the SLS from the approaching storm.
NASA probably no longer has time for a rollback of the rocket since it takes roughly three days to prepare and move the vehicle.
Cline said that officials with Kennedy Space Center are on frequent calls with the National Hurricane Center, along with the Department of Defense and other entities operating in the area of the storm’s path.
Another concern for the Florida coast, Cline said, is that the storm could bring as much as six inches of rain and a storm surge of up to three to five feet.
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