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NASA’s Space Launch System rocket undamaged by hurricane, will launch next month

Hurricane Ian has battered the U.S. Atlantic coast this week, causing widespread destruction and killing at least 30 people. As Ian approached the Florida coast NASA made the decision to roll its Space Launch System rocket off the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and back inside its building. With the hurricane having moved past Florida, NASA has now confirmed that the rocket was not damaged and has set a new date for the next launch attempt.

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, along with the Orion spacecraft, had been scheduled for a third attempt at a launch on Tuesday, September 27. The launch would be for the Artemis I mission, an uncrewed mission around the moon to test hardware and procedures ahead of a planned crewed mission to the moon. But as Ian approached over last weekend, NASA canceled the launch attempt and decided it was too risky to leave the rocket out on the launch pad. It was rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) a few miles from the pad where it could be safely stored until the storm passed.

In an update, NASA confirmed that the rocket was in good condition and had not suffered any damage. “There was no damage to Artemis flight hardware, and facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations,” NASA wrote. “Next, engineers will extend access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to prepare for additional inspections and start preparing for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.”

The next window for a possible launch attempt is between November 12 and November 27, with a specific date for the launch announced once the situation has been further assessed. NASA says this is to allow time for the staff at Kennedy to deal with the immediate effects of the hurricane, writing, “Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch.”

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