Tropical Storm Nicole has nearly reached Florida's Space Coast and looking menacing in satellite pictures.
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.
Tropical Storm Nicole slowly gathering strength and approaching the Bahamas. pic.twitter.com/Axh67UgziQNovember 9, 2022
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.
As #GOESEast monitors the Atlantic this morning, not only can we see Tropical Storm #Nicole moving toward the northwestern Bahamas, but many cloud streets streaming off the Northeast and Canada over the ocean. These are often formed when very cold air moves over warmer water. pic.twitter.com/8rzfEsCq2XNovember 9, 2022
Here's a moonlit view of Tropical Storm #Nicole juxtaposed with miles of cloud streets streaming off Maine and New Brunswick and an elegant curve in the clouds where winds collide over the Atlantic Ocean. https://t.co/N94utqlWWN pic.twitter.com/hkOUojxL1JNovember 9, 2022
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.