NASA Changes Artemis 1 Launch Date Over Tropical Storm Concerns

NASA's upcoming Artemis 1 mission launch has been delayed yet again, though the reasons for the latest date change aren't in the space agency's control: the weather. Specifically, NASA has decided to bump the Artemis 1 launch to mid-November as all signs point toward potentially damaging winds caused by Tropical Storm Nicole, which is expected to reach hurricane status in the near future.

The Artemis program is NASA's ambitious — and some say unreasonable — goal to return humans to the moon by 2025, though that'll only be the start of the effort. This time around, NASA aims to establish a long-term presence in space for the purposes of studying the moon, something that will involve everything from autonomous rovers to the Lunar Gateway. The Artemis 1 mission is a key step toward this eventual outcome, but the maiden launch has faced repeated setbacks, including one in September that was caused by a hydrogen leak.

NASA details its latest Artemis 1 mission plans

In a post on its Artemis blog, NASA said that it has made the decision to bump the Artemis 1 mission launch date ahead to November 16 — and it'll only proceed on that day if the weather returns to more favorable conditions and the tropical storm doesn't cause any damage to the launch complex or rocket. At this time, NASA says the Kennedy Space Center — where the mission will take place — has had its status updated to HURCON III. As such, some workers will stick around in the locked-down complex to keep the most important systems running.

Everyone else is able to focus on their families and securing their homes ahead of the anticipated hurricane, the space agency explains. The November 16 date was also selected because it will hopefully provide enough time after the storm passes for the launch complex and rocket to be inspected and for everyone to get back into the flow of things for the mission.

NASA has been put in a precarious spot due to this storm. Over the weekend, the agency said the best option for protecting its massively expensive Space Launch System, which took many years to finish and cost many billions of dollars (via The Planetary Society), was leaving it "secured at the pad." This is because the SLS rocket was built to handle 85-mile-per-hour winds, and at this time, it doesn't look like the storm will exceed that threshold. AccuWeather reports an estimated 60% chance that the storm's winds may, in fact, reach a speed that could potentially damage the rocket, however. That would be a devastating setback for not only the Space Launch System but also the Artemis program as a whole.