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Artemis-1 moon rocket removed from launchpad, no launch till November

India Today logo India Today 28-09-2022 India Today Web Desk
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Nasa has finally removed the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft from the launchpad as the forecast indicates Hurricane Ian's arrival. The Artemis-1 rocket has been moved into the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where it will remain until the next launch opportunity.

The world's most powerful rocket, aimed at returning humans to the Moon, had been on the launchpad for over a month, during which Nasa tried to launch it twice. The launch attempts were, however, scrubbed due to engine issues followed by repeated hydrogen leaks in the booster.

The spacecraft moved into VAB, covering a four-mile journey from Launch Pad 39B, after Nasa decided to forego the third launch attempt set for September 27, followed by a backup launch opportunity on October 2. With Hurricane Ian battering Cuba and projected to arrive in Florida in the coming days, the rocket was removed from the pad over safety concerns.

Also Read | Hurricane Ian looks furious from space as Category-3 storm hits Cuba

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The NASA moon rocket stands on Pad 39B before a launch attempt for the Artemis 1 mission to orbit the moon at the Kennedy Space Center. (Photo: AP)

"After the storm has passed, teams will conduct inspections to determine impacts at the center and establish a forward plan for the next launch attempt," Nasa said. During its time in the VAB, engineers will also replace the core stage flight termination system batteries and retest the system to ensure it can terminate the flight if necessary for public safety in the event of an emergency during launch.

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Nasa official Jim Free told the Associated Press that it would be difficult to upgrade the rocket and get it back to the pad for an October launch attempt. Putting in fresh batteries is particularly challenging, Free noted, making it doubtful a launch could be attempted before the mid-to-late October launch period closes.

The next two-week window will open on November 12. Nasa is not taking any chances with its billion-dollar project to return humans to the Moon, amid tough competition from China and Russia.

Once in space, the crew capsule atop the rocket will aim for lunar orbit with three test dummies, a crucial dress rehearsal before astronauts climb aboard in 2024. The last time a capsule flew to the moon was during NASA's Apollo 17 lunar landing in 1972.

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