(CNN) – The Artemis I rocket will make its third launch attempt on Tuesday, September 27, but Tropical Depression Nine could change that.
The 70-minute launch window opens at 11:37 a.m. ET and the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft remain on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Concerns about the forming weather system in the Caribbean make weather conditions only 20% favorable for a launch. The current trajectory of the tropical depression puts the storm on course to hit Cuba and Florida early next week.
Given the uncertainty in the storm’s path, intensity and arrival time, the Artemis team will use the most recent data to make its decision, said Mike Bolger, manager of NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program.
The Artemis team is closely monitoring the weather and will make a decision on Saturday.
“Deep tropical humidity will sweep over the spaceport on Tuesday, with widespread cloud cover and isolated showers likely during the launch window,” according to a forecast released by the US Space Force on Friday.
Launch restrictions require the Artemis I mission not to fly through precipitation. The launch restrictions are designed to avoid natural and missile-triggered lightning strikes on missiles during flight, which could damage the missile and endanger public safety, according to the Space Force.
Rocket-triggered lightning forms when a large rocket flies through a strong enough atmospheric electric field that a cloud that doesn’t produce natural lightning could still cause rocket-triggered lightning, according to the Space Force.
If the rocket stack needs to be rolled back into Kennedy Space Center’s vehicle assembly building, the process can take several days.
The rocket stack can stay on the pad and withstand wind speeds of up to 85 miles per hour (74.1 knots). If the stack has to roll back into the building, it can withstand sustained winds of less than 40 miles per hour (40 knots), Bolger said.
Evaluation of crucial data
Meanwhile, the Artemis team is encouraged after “a really successful tank test,” and “the rocket is looking good for upcoming launch attempts,” said John Blevins, SLS chief engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The crucial refueling test for the Mega Moon rocket achieved all of its goals on Wednesday, despite two separate hydrogen leaks.
The purpose of the cryo demonstration was to test replaced seals and use updated, “friendlier and gentler” supercold propellant loading procedures that the rocket would experience on launch day.
NASA engineers discovered a liquid hydrogen leak during the test that had “the same signature” as a leak that prevented the September 3 launch attempt. However, their troubleshooting efforts allowed the team to manage the leak.
The team was able to completely fill the core stage with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. They also performed an engine breather test, which conditions the four engines and lowers their temperature before launch. (The mission team canceled the first launch attempt of Artemis I on August 29 mainly due to an issue with a faulty sensor that occurred during the bleed.)
A hydrogen leak detected at the 4-inch engine vent quick-disconnect line went above the 4% threshold during a pre-pressure test. This quick disconnect line carries liquid hydrogen out of the engines after they have passed through and cooled the engines. But the leak rate dropped by itself.
In addition, the Artemis team has received clearance from the Space Force for a September 27 launch attempt and an October 2 fallback date.
The Space Force oversees all rocket launches from the East Coast of the United States, including NASA’s Florida launch site, and this area is known as the Eastern Range. Range officials are responsible for ensuring that there is no danger to persons or property during a launch attempt.
After receiving detailed data from NASA, the Space Force issued a waiver on the launch dates.
The Artemis program’s inaugural mission will usher in a phase of NASA’s space exploration aimed at landing various crews of astronauts in previously unexplored regions of the Moon — on the Artemis II and Artemis III missions planned for 2024 and 2025, respectively — and eventually deliver manned missions to Mars.
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