Tropical storm Ian delays Nasa's Artemis 1 Moon rocket launch attempt

The rocket could possibly be removed from the launch pad and taken back to the Vehicle Assembly Building

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Nasa has postponed its Artemis 1 Moon rocket launch for a third time due to the threat of a tropical storm which could become a hurricane.

The space agency was targeting September 27 for lift-off but weather conditions are no longer suitable, with tropical storm Ian forecast to approach Florida early next week.

The launch of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft was previously twice delayed due to technical issues.

Nasa said it was considering rolling the rocket back to the assembly site, though no decision has been made at this stage.

“The agency is taking a step-wise approach to its decision-making process to allow the agency to protect its employees by completing a safe roll in time for them to address the needs of their families while also protecting for the option to press ahead with another launch opportunity in the current window if weather predictions improve,” the space agency said.

If the roll back goes ahead, then the transportation of the rocket would begin late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

This could push the launch back by several weeks.

The Space Launch System, with the Orion spacecraft on top of it, has been on a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida since August 16.

Nasa is trying to launch it as part of Artemis 1, an uncrewed test flight around the Moon that would test the rocket and spacecraft’s performance.

It would pave the way for the Artemis programme, which aims to build a sustainable human presence on the Moon.

The US Space Force has also been tracking the weather conditions on the launch pad.

In a statement on September 23, the Space Force said that shower activity will get closer to the spaceport on Sunday.

“On Sunday, the boundary will push back northward ahead of a likely strengthening tropical system in the western Caribbean, gradually shifting shower activity closer to the spaceport,” it said.

“Deep tropical moisture will spill across the spaceport Tuesday, with widespread cloud cover and scattered showers likely during the launch window.

“As a result, our primary concerns will be the cumulus cloud rule, surface electric fields rule and the flight through precipitation constraint.”

A rocket cannot be launched when these concerns are present, as it could damage the rocket and puts public safety into question.

Updated: September 25, 2022, 9:53 AM