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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab).

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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 (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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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