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NASA targets new date for maiden launch of its mega moon rocket

NASA is now targeting Monday, November 14, for the maiden launch of its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Technical problems caused the space agency to call off launch attempts in late August and early September, while Hurricane Ian disrupted plans for a potential launch effort late last month, culminating in the team rolling the rocket to shelter to protect it from the strong winds.

NASA said on Wednesday that a 69-minute launch window opens at 12:07 a.m. ET on November 14.

“Inspections and analyses over the previous week have confirmed minimal work is required to prepare the rocket and spacecraft to roll out to Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida following the roll-back due to Hurricane Ian,” NASA said in a release.

It added: “Teams will perform standard maintenance to repair minor damage to the foam and cork on the thermal protection system and recharge or replace batteries on the rocket, several secondary payloads, and the flight termination system.”

The current plan is to roll the SLS rocket from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad as early as Friday, November 4.

The highly anticipated Artemis I test flight will see the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built propel an uncrewed Orion spacecraft toward the moon for a fly-by of the lunar surface. If it gets away on November 14, the mission would last about three-and-a-half weeks, ending with splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 9.

If Artemis I is deemed a success, Artemis II will take the same path but with astronauts on board. 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 in what will also be the first astronaut landing since the final Apollo mission in 1972.

NASA said that if it’s unable to launch the SLS rocket on November 14, there are back-up launch opportunities for Wednesday, November 16, at 1:04 a.m. ET, and Saturday, November 19, at 1:45 a.m. ET, both of which offer two-hour launch windows.

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