Nov 8, 2022 - Science

Tropical Storm Nicole threat delays NASA's Artemis I mission

The Artemis-1 rocket is rolled out from the Vehicle Assembly Building en route to Launch Pad 39B shortly after midnight at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 3.

The Artemis-1 rocket is rolled out from the Vehicle Assembly Building en route to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 3. Photo: Gregg Newton/AFP via Getty Images

NASA announced Tuesday it's again delaying the uncrewed Artemis I moon mission, this time due to the threat that the intensifying Tropical Storm Nicole poses to the Florida launch site.

Driving the news: NASA had aimed to launch the rocket on Nov. 14, but moved that date to Nov. 16, "pending safe conditions for employees to return to work, as well as inspections after the storm has passed," per a statement from the space agency.

Threat level: NASA plans to leave Artemis I on the Cape Canaveral launchpad during the storm, which could bring 75 mph winds during its expected landfall as a Category 1 hurricane along Florida's east coast Wednesday night. The upper part of the rocket could see higher wind gusts, possibly above 85 mph.

  • The storm is forecast to strike somewhere between West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral.

Our thought bubble: The combination of the storm and a high-pressure area to its north will create a strong pressure gradient across northern Florida and the Southeast, funneling air in between them. This means the tropical storm and hurricane-force winds will be spread across a larger area than usual.

  • While dry air may prevent Nicole from intensifying more than expected, typical intensity forecast errors put the winds at landfall within the maximum safety range.

Worth noting: Recent landfalling storms in the U.S. have intensified faster and more significantly than usual, though that is not a high likelihood in this case.

The big picture: NASA plans to use the Artemis I launch of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule to test out much of the tech needed to one day bring people back to the Moon for the first time since the 1970s, Axios' Miriam Kramer notes.

  • The launch was initially scheduled for August but it has faced several delays.
  • The first crewed launch is targeted for 2025.

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