$50 billion NASA moon rocket left exposed to Hurricane Nicole's powerful winds
NASA left its prized new moon rocket exposed on its Florida launchpad as Hurricane Nicole battered the state with powerful winds. The Space Launch System is 17 years and an estimated $50 billion in the making. NASA designed it to return astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 and to build a new permanent base on the lunar surface.
The Space Launch System has suffered setbacks all year from technical issues to weather, and now its launch is delayed again — from Monday, November 14, to Wednesday, November 16 — as NASA addresses "minor damage" from the hurricane. One of the engine's rain covers was torn, an umbilical cord between the rocket and its Orion spacecraft came out of place, and some sealant was damaged around the spacecraft.
Jim Free, an associate administrator at NASA, said during a briefing on Friday, "Right now, there's nothing preventing us from getting to the 16th”. About leaving the rocket exposed to the hurricane, Jonathan Porter, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, said in a statement, "This entire situation raises serious questions about NASA's procedures for weather risk mitigation and preparation based upon available forecasts.”
As it made landfall on Thursday, Nicole slammed SLS with powerful winds. Meters registered wind gusts of up to 100 mph near the top of the launchpad. "It is important to point out that the force of the wind increases exponentially, not linearly, so small increases in wind can result in substantial increases in damage potential," Porter said.