Skip to main content

NASA inspects SLS moon rocket following Hurricane Nicole

As the authorities in Florida begin to assess the wider damage wrought by Hurricane Nicole on Thursday, a team at the Kennedy Space Center is currently performing detailed inspections of NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket.

The 98-meter-tall SLS rocket, with the Orion spacecraft at its tip, remained on the launchpad as the extreme weather passed through, exposing the vehicle to gusts of up to 82 mph. The rocket arrived on the launchpad last weekend ahead of its maiden flight, which could take place on Wednesday.

Tim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, posted a statement at around 5 p.m. ET detailing the situation at the Kennedy Space Center.

“Teams monitored SLS and Orion remotely during the storm … Our team is conducting initial visual checkouts of the rocket, spacecraft, and ground system equipment with the cameras at the launchpad.”

Free said the feeds show “very minor damage” such as tears in weather coverings, adding that personnel will soon carry out additional on-site walkthrough inspections of the vehicle.

When Hurricane Ian approached the Space Coast at the end of September, NASA decided to move the SLS rocket from the launchpad to the shelter of the Vehicle Assembly Building four miles away. This time it deemed it safer to leave the rocket on the launchpad. Free explained why:

“We took the decision to keep Orion and SLS at the launchpad very seriously, reviewing the data in front of us and making the best decision possible with high uncertainty in predicting the weather four days out,” the official said. “With the unexpected change to the forecast, returning to the Vehicle Assembly Building was deemed to be too risky in high winds, and the team decided the launchpad was the safest place for the rocket to weather the storm.”

If the detailed inspections show the rocket and launch equipment to be intact, NASA is likely to stick with its target launch date of November 16. The uncrewed Artemis I mission will send Orion on a flyby of the moon to test the hardware ahead of the crewed Artemis II mission that will take the same route. If both of these missions go according to plan, NASA plans to put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in the Artemis III mission, which could take place as early as 2025.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Watch NASA’s cinematic video of the Artemis I moon mission
The moon and Earth as seen from the Orion spacecraft in November 2022.

NASA has released a cinematic video showcasing the Artemis I mission so far.

The 96-second presentation pulls together the best footage and photos captured since the mission’s launch on November 16. You can watch it below:

Read more
NASA’s moon spacecraft sets new distance record
Earth and the moon seen from NASA's Orion spacecraft.

NASA’s Orion capsule has set a new distance record for a spacecraft designed to carry humans to space.

On Monday, the uncrewed spacecraft, which is currently in a distant retrograde orbit (DRO) around the moon, reached a point 268,553 miles beyond Earth -- the furthest it will travel from our planet during the Artemis I mission. This also put it 43,051 miles from the moon as it sped through space at 1,674 mph.

Read more
NASA’s moon spacecraft beams back first images of Earth
Orion's first image of Earth.

NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft has sent back its first images Earth as it heads toward a rendezvous with the moon as part of the historic Artemis I mission.

A video stream from a camera attached to the spacecraft captured Earth gradually coming into view several hours after launch:

Read more