NASA postpones Tuesday Artemis I launch as tropical storm barrels toward Florida

NASA is postponing its scheduled Tuesday launch of its Space Launch System rocket for the Artemis I mission as a tropical storm moves toward the coast of Florida. 

The space agency announced the delay in a statement after team members held a meeting Saturday.

Officials will continue to watch the weather forecast coming with Tropical Storm Ian, which is expected to hit Florida as a major hurricane next week, and are preparing for a rollback, in which the rocket would be taken off the launch platform to the vehicle assembly building. 

The delay is the third for the Artemis I mission that will see an unmanned spacecraft orbit the moon as the first step in a multiyear program through which people return to the moon’s surface for the first time in half a century. 

NASA delayed the launch first in late August and again earlier this month following technical problems. One of the rocket’s engines failed to condition to the correct temperature before the planned Aug. 29 launch, and engineers were unable to resolve a liquid hydrogen leak on Sept. 3. 

NASA said in its statement that engineers will make a final decision about the rollback on Sunday to allow them to receive additional data. The statement said the agency is taking a “step-wise approach” to allow it to protect its employees while also preserving the option to move forward with another launch opportunity if the weather improves. 

The agency previously announced after the two failed attempts that it would not try again until repairs were completed, which could take until October. 

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at a press conference earlier this month, “We’re not going to launch until it’s right.” 

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