After delaying the decision several times, NASA managers finally gave the okay to roll Artemis 1’s massive SLS rocket back to the protection of the Vehicle Assembly Building before damaging winds from Hurricane Ian arrive.
Rollback to take place Monday evening
Like the majority of past rollouts and returns, NASA will begin the rollback at 11 p.m. EDT. The roll will take approximately six hours, meaning views will be rough. The rocket’s continuous live feed on LC-39B will change between several camera angles to keep it in frame (mostly). However, it’s unlikely there will be a hosted stream of the event like rollout usually has.
Everything is already in place to conduct the roll. NASA’s historic crawler made the three-mile journey Sunday ahead of what we expected was a decision to roll Sunday evening. NASA instructed its teams last Thursday to begin parallel operations for both launch and rollback to make sure there wouldn’t be much left to do when the time came to decide.
NASA ended up abandoning those launch plans for September 27 in a Saturday update and kicked the rollback decision down the road as some models showed Hurricane Ian making landfall near Tallahassee, Florida, instead of Tampa. However, starting Sunday models from both NOAA and Europe showed the storm getting much closer to central Florida.
Rollback could push Artemis 1’s launch to November
NASA was holding out hope to keep Artemis 1’s SLS rocket on the pad as they are up against the wall with getting the mission launched. Artemis 1’s planned October 2 launch is entirely off the table now (it was already expected to have poor weather anyways) and the next window in October would be hard to meet.
NASA managers stated if they decided to rollback they would also choose to swap out SLS’s flight termination batteries. These were granted a waiver from the Space Force last week to be used through the October 2 launch date. The rollback, inspections, and battery swap will likely take weeks to complete. Teams being ready for the next launch window, October 17-31, seems improbable.
After October, NASA has a launch window set for November 12-27, which will likely be the next time NASA can launch Artemis 1 after this rollback. The final window of 2022 will be December 9-23, and there are also launch windows going into next spring, but hopefully we won’t have to worry about those.