NASA has once again delayed the launch of Artemis 1 in the face of a potentially dangerous weather system. The agency had penciled in the launch for the early morning of November 14th, but it's now retargeting liftoff for November 16th. The current two-hour launch window opens at 1:04AM ET. There's a backup launch opportunity scheduled for November 19th.
The latest delay is due to the threat posed by Tropical Storm Nicole. The new launch window is dependent on conditions being safe enough for NASA employees to return to work, as well as inspections after the weather system has passed. The agency says that pushing back the launch date "will allow the workforce to tend to the needs of their families and homes, and provide sufficient logistical time to get back into launch status following the storm."
Teams are securing equipment, property and facilities at the space center, which is in HURCON (Hurricane Condition) III status. Some personnel in a “ride-out” team will remain in place to monitor conditions across the site, including the SLS and Orion.
The Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft will stay on the launch pad this time. Before Hurricane Ian bore down on the Kennedy Space Center, NASA rolled back the rocket and spacecraft to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building. It rolled Artemis out to the launch pad again last week. The SLS can withstand winds of up to 85MPH (74.4 knots) and Nicole isn't expected to bring winds exceeding that speed. The rocket is also able to deal with heavy rain and NASA has secured the hatches to prevent water from getting inside.
Artemis 1 is a test mission that's scheduled to fly around the moon. It's a precursor to humans returning to the lunar surface for the first time in over half a century. However, NASA's attempts to launch the SLS and Orion over the last few months have been beset by technical issues and inclement weather.