Artemis 1 will roll off launch pad to ride out Hurricane Ian

artemis 1 rocket on launch pad backdropped by orange sky
The Artemis 1 rocket on the launch pad on Aug. 29, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/Keegan Barber)

Update, Sept. 27, 9:18 a.m.: Artemis 1 is inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA is expected to hold a media briefing around 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) at www.nasa.gov/live (opens in new tab).


An incoming hurricane is forcing NASA's big moon mission off the launch pad again.

Hurricane Ian, which is bearing down on Florida for a predicted landfall Thursday (Sept. 29), caused NASA to decide to roll back the Artemis 1 mission's Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket to shelter from the launch pad, the agency said via a blog post (opens in new tab) Monday (Sept. 26). 

Artemis 1 was supposed to lift off for the moon Oct. 2, although it has been delayed several times already; Ian already had forced a delay from a planned attempt Tuesday (Sept. 27). A new launch date has not yet been set.

The agency will begin moving the massive SLS rocket and the uncrewed Orion spacecraft at 11 p.m. EDT Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday, Sept. 27). Live coverage of the 8 to 10 hour journey will be available here at Space.com, via NASA Television (opens in new tab), as well as on NASA's website, app and social media.

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Artemis 1 will then ride out the storm in NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building; winds are forecast to reach at least 76 mph (opens in new tab) (122 km/h), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Following the storm, NASA has said a slip to mid-October at the least is likely.

"The decision allows time for employees to address the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system," NASA wrote in the blog post. "The time of first motion also is based on the best predicted conditions for rollback to meet weather criteria for the move."

NASA managers made the decision using data from NOAA, U.S. Space Force (which manages the launch range surrounding the agency's Kennedy Space Center), and the National Hurricane Center.

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This will be Artemis 1's third stay in the VAB. The mission was there for initial integration, then rolled out to the pad June 6 for an initial fueling test. Following numerous issues with the test on June 20, the big stack rolled back again July 2 to the VAB for more integration, and then came back to the launch pad Aug. 16 and 17, where several launch dates have passed by since due to weather or technical issues. (The agency also successfully completed another fueling test last week.)

NASA managers have said the system is rated for two more rollbacks to the VAB, so after this hurricane decision it appears the stack will need to launch after its return to the launch pad. Artemis 1's mission calls for Orion to circle around the moon and return on an approximately 40-day mission, as a shakedown cruise ahead of the crewed Artemis 2 no earlier than 2024.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace