CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — 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 follow-up 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 center — including NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Given the forecast uncertainties, NASA decided Saturday to forgo Tuesday’s planned launch attempt and instead prepare the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket for a possible return to its hangar. Managers will decide 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 likely would mean a lengthy delay for the test flight, possibly pushing it into November.