NASA is sticking by its Nov. 14 launch date for its historic Artemis 1 moon mission even as a subtropical storm develops in the Atlantic Ocean and appears poised to head toward Kennedy Space Center.
Despite a potentially dangerous subtropical storm brewing in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida's Space Coast, NASA says it will keep the Artemis 1 mission's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft on the launch pad.
"Based on current forecast data, managers have determined the Space Launch System rocket and Orion will remain at Launch Pad 39B," the agency said in a statement issued Monday (Nov. 7). As long as the storm does not grow in magnitude, NASA remains just one week away from the first launch of the Artemis program, which will see humanity return to the moon to establish a permanent lunar presence and enable future deep space exploration.
NASA's statement says that personnel at Florida's Kennedy Space Center "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 1 mission as we proceed and receive updated precautions about the weather."
The agency is working alongside the United States Space Force and the U.S. National Hurricane Center in order to watch the storm, currently known as Subtropical Storm Nicole. The National Hurricane Center issued a statement (opens in new tab) on Monday (Nov. 7) that predicts a dangerous storm surge is possible as early as Wednesday (Nov. 9) throughout the east coast of Florida, where SLS waits at Launch Pad 39B for next week's launch attempt.
Heavy rainfall is expected by Thursday (Nov. 10) for much of the Florida peninsula, and Space Force's Space Launch Delta 45, which oversees the adjacent Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, issued a statement (opens in new tab) forecasting that surface winds in excess of 58 mph (93 kph) could arrive before Friday (Nov. 11).
Because of these forecasts, Kennedy Space Center is currently in a Hurricane Condition (HURCON) IV status, which the agency says "includes implementing checklists and preparations for the storm as the agency continues to prioritize its employees in the Kennedy area."
Previously, Hurricane Ian forced the agency to roll SLS back to Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building in late September in order to protect it, while also giving engineers time to troubleshoot fuel leak issues that forced previous launch attempts to be scrubbed.
If the storm does not force NASA to delay the mission's Nov. 14 launch attempt, Artemis 1 will send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a mission to lunar orbit and back. Later missions in the Artemis program will see crews land near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026 and work toward creating a sustainable human colony on our planet's moon by 2030.