Science

NASA cancels moon rocket launch for 3rd time due to possible hurricane

NASA is skipping next week's launch attempt of its new moon rocket because of a tropical storm that's expected to become a major hurricane.

Hydrogen fuel leaks and other technical issues caused previous delays

NASA's massive Space Launch System sits at launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The space agency has delayed the launch of its moon rocket for a third time this month in anticipation of tropical storm Ian. (Don Hladiuk)

NASA is skipping next week's launch attempt of its new moon rocket because of a tropical storm that's expected to become a major hurricane.

It's the third delay in the past month for the lunar-orbiting test flight featuring mannequins but no astronauts, a followup to NASA's Apollo moon-landing program of a half-century ago. Hydrogen fuel leaks and other technical issues caused the previous scrubs.

Currently churning in the Caribbean, tropical storm Ian is expected to become a hurricane by Monday and slam into Florida's Gulf coast by Thursday. The entire state, however, is in the cone showing the probable path of the storm's centre — including NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Given the forecast uncertainties, NASA decided Saturday to forgo Tuesday's planned launch attempt and instead prepare the 98-metre rocket for a possible return to its hangar. Managers will decide on Sunday whether to haul it off the launch pad.

If the rocket remains at the pad, NASA could try for an Oct. 2 launch attempt, the last opportunity before a two-week blackout period.

But a rollback late Sunday or early Monday would likely mean a lengthy delay for the test flight, possibly pushing it into November.

The Space Launch System rocket is the most powerful ever built by NASA. Assuming its first test flight goes well, astronauts would climb aboard for the next mission in 2024, leading to a two-person moon landing in 2025.

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