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)…
How to watch tonight’s launch of NASA’s mega moon rocket
NASA's SLS rocket at the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA is aiming to launch its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on a mission to the moon in just a few hours from now.

Artemis I Launch to the Moon (Official NASA Broadcast) - Nov. 16, 2022

Read more
NASA needs good weather for Artemis launch, here’s how it’s looking
NASA's SLS rocket on its way to the launchpad.

With two hurricanes in the last six weeks disrupting NASA’s plans for the maiden launch of its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, we’re happy to report that everything is looking good for the next launch attempt planned for early on Wednesday morning.

According to a forecast from the 45th Weather Squadron, which provides detailed assessments for air and space operations in the U.S., the conditions at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are 90% favorable for the much-anticipated test flight of NASA’s new hardware.

Read more
NASA sticks with Artemis I launch despite minor damage from Hurricane Nicole
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Teams began walkdowns and inspections at the pad to assess the status of the rocket and spacecraft after the passage of Hurricane Nicole.

NASA has announced that the Space Launch System rocket is still set to be launched for the Artemis I mission this week, despite suffering "very minor damage" during Hurricane Nicole.

The rocket was out on the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida when the hurricane struck last week, as rolling it back inside its building was deemed to be too risky. During a previous launch attempt which was stymied by Hurricane Ian, the rocket was returned to its building, but this time it was decided it would be safer left where it was.

Read more