Mother Nature has pushed SpaceX's next launch back by at least four days.
SpaceX had been planning to launch the Galaxy 31 and Galaxy 32 satellites for the telecom company Intelsat atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Tuesday (Nov. 8). But concerns about a newborn storm system named Nicole, which is gathering strength in the Atlantic and appears headed for the Space Coast, have forced a delay.
"Teams at the Cape are preparing for Tropical Storm Nicole and are now targeting no earlier than Saturday, November 12 for Falcon 9's launch of the Intelsat G-31/G-32 mission to orbit from SLC-40 [Space Launch Complex-40]," SpaceX said via Twitter today (Nov. 7).
"The vehicle and payload are secure in the hangar and will remain there through the duration of the storm," the company added in another tweet.
Technically, Nicole is classified as a subtropical storm, because it exhibits characteristics of both tropical storms and extratropical storms, as USA Today explained. But it could still grow into a hurricane and pummel the southeastern coast of the United States with strong winds and heavy rains over the coming days, experts say.
Indeed, Florida's Atlantic coast — which includes Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA's nearby Kennedy Space Center (KSC) — is now under a hurricane watch.
Despite the gathering storm, NASA still intends to launch its highly anticipated Artemis 1 moon mission from KSC on Nov. 14. The agency doesn't plan to roll the Artemis 1 stack — a Space Launch System rocket topped by an Orion crew capsule — off KSC's Pad 39B for protection, as it did in late September to shelter from Hurricane Ian.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.