UNITED STATES: Nicole made landfall Wednesday night on Florida’s Atlantic Coast as a Category 1 hurricane. After initial visual inspections, NASA said on Thursday that its brand-new $4 billion moon rocket apparently suffered no major damage after Hurricane Nicole hit Florida.
The 32-story-tall rocket was tested by sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (136.8 km per hour), with surges topping 100 mph.
These winds also posed additional risks to the spacecraft, which has already been plagued by technical issues that have delayed its debut launch.
The US National Weather Service makes the wind sensor information from NASA available online.
According to US space agency experts before the storm, the rocket is built to survive exposure to winds of up to 85 mph on the launchpad.
Nicole made landfall before dawn on Thursday south of the Kennedy Space Center launch site at Cape Canaveral, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, with maximum sustained winds on the ground of 75 mph and stronger surges.
NASA decided to shelter the massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at the launchpad where it arrived last week before Nicole became forecast as a tropical storm rather than attempt to roll the vehicle back to its hangar before the hurricane struck.
After two failed countdowns in the late summer, the SLS and its Orion capsule were getting ready for a third attempt, which would be their much-anticipated first flight and the first mission of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program.
According to NASA engineers, the 12-hour task of transporting the massive rocket in strong winds as the storm approached was deemed too risky.
With a much-delayed debut test flight to the moon without any humans on board planned for November 14, NASA rolled out SLS to its launchpad last Thursday.
As SLS approached the launch pad, about 4 miles from where it had been stored inside NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building, Nicole began to take shape as a potential tropical storm.
On Tuesday, NASA decided to move up the planned launch date of the rocket to November 16, when meteorologists expected Nicole to become a hurricane.
Although NASA has not ruled out a November 16 launch, a spokesperson for the organisation added on Thursday that it would be premature to confirm the date at this time because walk-down inspections have only recently begun.