Weather is “70% GO” for Monday’s Moon Rocket Launch

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft roll off the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the first time on March 17, 2022. Image: NASA/Brandon Hancock

Meteorologists from the US Space Force and the 45th Weather Squadron have updated their forecast for Monday to show that weather conditions should be good to launch the Space Launch Systems (SLS) rocket for its maiden flight to the Moon. With only a 30% chance of weather violating prescribed launch weather restrictions, the latest Launch Mission Execution Forecast shows conditions should be 70% “GO” for launch.

More than 50 years after the last flight of NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket, NASA is preparing to send SLS on a test mission to the moon in what they call the Artemis I test flight. The massive rocket will blast off from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center at the start of a two-hour launch window that opens at 8:33 a.m. ET on Monday, August 29.

According to the Launch Mission Execution Forecast, “an unsettled weather pattern will continue in Central Florida through Saturday as a weak northward trough keeps the prevailing direction flow away from the south-southwest. This will favor stormy afternoons and evenings as the collision of sea breezes favors the east coast.” They add: “As usual, showers and storms will decrease shower and thunderstorm coverage along the Space Coast. This flow regime will remain in effect until the opening of the initial launch window on Monday morning.”

NASA invited a Weatherboy meteorologist to the Kennedy Space Center to observe the Orion test capsule after it returned from its first test flight into space in 2014. Image: Weatherboy
NASA invited a Weatherboy meteorologist to the Kennedy Space Center to observe the Orion test capsule after it returned from its first test flight into space in 2014. Image: Weatherboy

For the launch window, mission meteorologists are more concerned about the presence of cumulus clouds, electric fields on the surface, and the possibility that the rocket will have to fly through areas of precipitation. “While the overall lightning threat appears low, this onshore flow regime will promote scattered showers in Atlantic waters throughout the launch window,” mission meteorologists concluded.

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On May 13, 2019, then-President Donald Trump released a budget to increase NASA spending by $1.6 billion to return the space agency to the Moon. At the time, the president said, “Under my administration, we are restoring NASA to greatness and we will return to the Moon, then to Mars.” In December 2017, President Trump issued a directive to NASA to send American astronauts back to the moon and eventually to Mars, changing the agency’s mission from the study of Earth and a larger plan to explore Mars. This marked a significant shift in space policy from the Obama administration, which had cut investment in human spaceflight to fund more work related to climate change.

Current President Joe Biden has embraced President Trump’s space program and continues the Moon mission under his watch.

NASA Administrator under President Trump Jim Bridenstine welcomed the budget increase, saying, “This is the momentum NASA needs to move forward and put the next man and woman on the Moon. Thank you, President Trump!” Bridenstine added that the $1.6 billion figure serves as a “down payment” to advance design, development and exploration with the goal of bringing men and women back to the surface of the moon by 2024. In addition to funding for a human landing system, also helped fund robotic exploration of the Moon’s polar regions. At the time, Bridenstine revealed that NASA’s renewed efforts to travel to the Moon would be part of the “Artemis” project.

NASA unveiled the logo for the Artemis missions in 2019. Image: NASA
NASA unveiled the logo for the Artemis missions in 2019. Image: NASA

According to Greek mythology, Artemis was the daughter of Leto and Zeus, and the twin of Apollo. She is the goddess of the desert, hunting and wild animals, and fertility; Artemis is also regarded as one of the midwives’ helpers as goddess of birth. The original moon landing project was known as the “Apollo Mission.” Bridenstine says that Artemis will not only bring men to the Moon, but also women. “We are excited to land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon by 2024,” she said in 2019.

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“Imagine the possibility that awaits us in those big beautiful stars if we dare to dream big. That is what our country is doing again, we are dreaming big,” President Trump said when Artemis was introduced. “This is a giant step toward that inspiring future and toward reclaiming America’s proud destiny in space, and space has so much to do with so many other applications, including a military application.”

Leveraging technology from the US Space Shuttle Program, which has since been discontinued, and a mix of existing and new rockets, NASA’s SLS rocket stands 322 feet tall and weighs about 5.75 million pounds. pounds once loaded with fuel.

The purpose of this Artemis 1 mission is to test this new SLS rocket; The mission will also send the uncrewed Orion capsule into orbit around the Moon, eventually returning to Earth.

SpaceX's Starship rocket is being developed in Boca Chica, Texas, near the US-Mexico border.  Image: Weatherboy
SpaceX’s Starship rocket is being developed in Boca Chica, Texas, near the US-Mexico border. Image: Weatherboy

If this test flight goes well, NASA will send four astronauts to the Artemis 2 mission, which will send them in the Orion capsule for another orbit around the Moon in 2024. With Artemis 2 complete, NASA will focus on getting astronauts to the Moon. surface of the Moon sometime in 2025 or 2026, later than the initial 2024 expected when Artemis first made itself known.

While the SLS rocket is NASA’s most powerful, SpaceX plans to launch an even bigger and more powerful rocket known as Starship. NASA’s Saturn V generated about 7.6 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and consisted of three stages. The SLS, as currently configured, is slightly shorter than the 363-foot-tall Saturn V and lighter than the 6.5-million-pound Saturn V. SpaceX’s Starship is taller than both at 390 feet and it will be able to carry more than twice what SLS can carry into space. SpaceX is currently preparing for a suborbital test of Starship that would launch the rocket from Texas to Hawaii. After that mission, SpaceX would consider additional missions to get equipment and people to the Moon and Mars.

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