Satellites watch Tropical Storm Nicole approach Florida ahead of Artemis 1 moon launch (photos)

Tropical Storm Nicole has nearly reached Florida's Space Coast and looking menacing in satellite pictures.

The storm looms large in fresh satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but remains just below hurricane strength as it moves towards the Space Coast.

Winds are being generated at roughly 70 mph (110 km/h), NOAA said in a morning update EST on Wednesday (Nov. 9). The storm is now tracking slightly south of the coastal launch pad at Kennedy Space Center where NASA's Artemis 1 moon rocket is awaiting liftoff. The agency pushed back the launch date another two days to Nov. 16 at the least and plans for the rocket to ride out the winds at the launch pad.

Related: NASA delays Artemis 1 moon launch to Nov. 16 due to Tropical Storm Nicole

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Imagery from NOAA's GOES East satellite shows Nicole making its way towards the Bahamas on its way to Florida. The satellite imagery reveals clouds streaming from Canada and the northeast across the ocean, which often happens when cold air is flowing over warm water, according to a NOAA tweet.

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Despite the strength of the storm, NASA is confident the Artemis 1 mission's Space Launch System mega moon rocket will be able to weather the approaching winds. "The SLS rocket is designed to withstand 85 mph (74.4-knot) winds at the 60-foot level with structural margin," agency officials wrote in an update on Tuesday (Nov. 8). "Current forecasts predict the greatest risks at the pad are high winds that are not expected to exceed the SLS design. The rocket is designed to withstand heavy rains at the launch pad, and the spacecraft hatches have been secured to prevent water intrusion."

This is the second storm in recent weeks to threaten Artemis 1 and the surrounding NASA Kennedy Space Center. When Hurricane Ian swept through in September, the agency elected to pull the rocket back to shelter in the large Vehicle Assembly Building. The storm's core passed practically right over the launch pad days later.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, 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 a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: