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Caribbean Storm Florida is Battered by Nicole as Nasa’s Artemis 1 Lunar Rocket Weathers the Storm
On Thursday, November 10, Tropical Storm Nicole pounded the Space Coast of Florida, where NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket is poised for liftoff. According to the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storm made landfall early on Thursday morning just south of Cape Canaveral, the location of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) (NWS).
When the storm arrived at the Florida shore around three in the morning, NOAA radar imagery showed it was delivering sustained winds of 75 mph(opens in new tab) (120 km/h) (0800 GMT). The storm is traveling west-northwest at 14 mph (22 km/h), according to satellite imagery. It will hit Central Florida on Thursday morning, Nov. 10, before entering the Gulf of Mexico. The NASA Artemis 1 moon rocket is braced against the storm on Launch Pad 39B at KSC, but there is still a danger that strong winds and flooding could harm it or cause it to launch later than planned.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami reports that Tropical Storm Nicole, which is currently centered over Central Florida, is bringing “strong gusts, severe storm surge and waves, and heavy rains.” The center reported that the storm continues to pose a threat to life.
After the successful launch of the @NOAA #JPSS2 weather satellite on Nov. 10, teams are assessing the status of its solar array. The spacecraft has power and is responding to commands. Stay updated on our blog: https://t.co/LICRlBDEDP pic.twitter.com/Jrn8R0vAcK
— NASA (@NASA) November 10, 2022
According to a statement released by NASA on November 8th, the SLS vehicle is intended to be able to survive winds up to 85 mph (137 km/h) (opens in new tab). According to Spaceflight Now, Tropical Storm Nicole’s sustained winds were barely under that rating when it made landfall, but there have been reports of gusts that have exceeded it.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, certain sensors at Launch Pad 39B recorded a wind gust as high as 100 mph at 4:15 a.m. EST (0915 GMT) while average winds were 85 mph. According to NASA, SLS is “built to endure severe rains at the launch pad and the spacecraft hatches have been locked to prevent water infiltration,” in reference to the storm’s expected torrential downpour.
Artemis 1’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is visible in NASASpaceflight.com’s live streams of KSC(opens in new tab) but is hidden from view by thick rain. As Tropical Storm Nicole swirls overhead, the camera that is fixed on the rocket can be seen trembling sporadically in the strong gusts.
According to weather sensors on Launch Complex-39B, the Artemis I stack saw wind gusts as high as 87 knots on the 120-foot level last night. The rocket is designed to withstand 74.4-knot gusts. pic.twitter.com/pkBuwFB6TH
— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) November 10, 2022
It is currently unknown whether the storm would result in further postponements of the eagerly awaited launch of the Artemis 1 moon mission. NASA postponed its launch until Wednesday (Nov. 16) to give crew members time to seek shelter from the storm. This is not the first time a storm has caused a launch delay; Hurricane Ian in late September compelled NASA to bring SLS back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for protection while urgent repairs were made to malfunctioning fueling valves.
There are increasing worries that some of the SLS vehicle’s components may fail based on current NASA analyses of their lifespans since the launch of Artemis 1 is being postponed. NASA will need to conduct additional reviews to ensure whether the vehicle’s rockets and other components are flight-worthy if the launch is delayed into mid-December.
When Artemis 1 lifts off, it will also deploy a group of CubeSats carrying various scientific experiments and place the Orion spacecraft in lunar orbit. The goal of the mission is to collect information that will help later Artemis missions that would send personnel to the south pole of the moon and eventually establish a permanent human presence there.