Skip to main content

What’s going on with NASA’s mega moon rocket launch?

NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is still on the ground.

It’s secured inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to keep it safe from Hurricane Ian, which at this moment is battering the state with strong winds and torrential rain.

The 98-meter-tall SLS rocket, whose first flight will mark the start of a new era of space exploration, was supposed to launch at the end of August, but a technical hitch with one of the core stage’s engines forced an abort about 70 minutes before lift-off.

With the engine issue fixed, NASA tried again in early September, but a liquid hydrogen leak prompted engineers to halt that launch effort, too.

NASA chose to sort out the issues with the rocket still on the launchpad, preferring not to haul it four miles to the VAB unless it was really necessary.

But then along came Hurricane Ian, making that removal really necessary. So on Monday night out came NASA’s crawler vehicle to transport the SLS rocket back to the VAB.

“As part of NASA’s hurricane preparedness protocol, a ‘ride out’ team will remain in a safe location at Kennedy throughout the storm to monitor center-wide conditions,” NASA said in a post on its website on Wednesday. “After the storm passes, they will conduct an assessment of facilities, property, and equipment. Once it is safe for additional employees to return to Kennedy, engineers will extend platforms to establish access to the rocket and spacecraft.”

It added: “Managers will review options on the extent of work that will be conducted in the VAB before returning to the launch pad or identifying the next opportunity for launch. Technicians will swap out batteries on the rocket’s flight termination system and retest the system prior to the next launch attempt.”

NASA had earlier announced Sunday, October 2, as a possible launch date, but the disruption caused by Hurricane Ian means that that window of opportunity is almost certain to pass by without any activity.

When it finally gets underway, the Artemis I mission will propel an uncrewed Orion spacecraft toward the moon, where it will perform a fly-by before returning to Earth six weeks after launch.

A successful mission will pave the way for a crewed Artemis II flight taking the same route, while Artemis III, which could take place as early as 2025, will endeavor to put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface.

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
Rocket footage shows awesome new view of Orion spacecraft launch
The view from the Orion spacecraft as it launched on NASA's SLS rocket in November 2022.

Just as NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft is about to reach a record distance from Earth for a human-rated spacecraft, the European Space Agency has released some awesome footage showing its recent launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The unusual angle comes via a camera attached to the Orion spacecraft at the top of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Looking directly down, we see the engines fire up and lift the rocket and spacecraft toward space, and onward to the moon (for the Orion, at least).

Read more