CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida. (AP) — NASA will skip its rocket launch attempt to the new moon next week because of a tropical storm that is expected to become a major hurricane.
It’s the third delay in the past month for the lunar-orbiting test flight with dummies but no astronauts, a follow-up to NASA’s Apollo moon landing program from half a century ago. Hydrogen fuel leaks and other technical problems caused the previous washes.
Currently churning in the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Ian is expected to strengthen into a hurricane on Monday and hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Thursday. However, the entire state is in the cone showing the likely path of the storm’s center, including NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Given forecast uncertainties, NASA decided on Saturday to forgo Tuesday’s planned launch attempt and instead prepare the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket for a possible return to its hangar. Managers will decide on Sunday whether to take him off the launch pad.
If the rocket remains on the pad, NASA could attempt a launch on October 1. 2 launch attempt, last chance before a two-week lockout period. But a reversal on Sunday night or early Monday would likely mean a long delay for the test flight, possibly extending it into November.
The Space Launch System rocket is the most powerful ever built by NASA. Assuming their first test flight goes well, the astronauts would board for the next mission in 2024, leading to a two-person landing in 2025.
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