Artemis 1: Man’s first mission to the moon in 50 years could be nullified by lightning or raindrops

In the darkness of a rainy Florida evening, lightning briefly illuminates launch pad 39B at Cape Canaveral, where Nasa’s Mega-Moon rocket is patiently awaiting launch.

The Artemis mission – which aims to return humans to the moon for the first time in half a century – has overcome numerous technical delays and a global pandemic to be ready for its first test flight on Monday.

But now it faces its toughest challenge yet – bad weather.

In the control room of the Kennedy Space Center, nervous glances rise to the sky, where storm clouds have lingered for days, crammed with ominous rolls of thunder.

The air is thick and muggy, and there’s even talk of a hurricane off the coast. Concerned weather briefings are held daily.

Graham Jones of website Time and Date said: “This is rocket science and there are myriad technical issues that could delay launch.

“That includes the weather. Florida has more lightning and thunderstorms than any other US state.

“Right now, the weather forecast for Cape Canaveral for the morning of August 29 indicates there could be storms.”

Officially known as the Space Launch System (SLS), the mega-lunar rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft is only given the green light under certain weather conditions, meaning temperature, wind, rain, cloud cover, and lightning all must work together for safe ascent.

The SLS can’t start in the rain, so the sweltering, blustery conditions are unsurprisingly a concern.

The 45th Weather Squadron, which produces forecasts for space launches, is forecasting a 70 percent chance of precipitation during Monday’s launch window and a 40 percent risk of lightning.

If lightning is detected within 10 nautical miles (18.52 km) of the launch pad, the team must wait 30 minutes for clear weather before continuing the countdown.

Cumulus cloud cover within 10 nautical miles could also delay launch, and ascent will be disrupted if the SLS trajectory falls within three nautical miles of a thunderstorm cloud.

Wind and temperature conditions also need to be monitored to ensure they fall within a safe window. Finally, any increased solar activity, such as B. a solar flare, lead to an abort of the start.

Even the rollout to the launch pad earlier this week was thwarted by inclement weather.

Lightning near Kennedy Space Center delayed the 4-mile drive from the Vehicle Assembly Building by an hour.

The 45th Weather Squadron estimates there is a 30 percent chance the missile will not lift off the ground, a result that would delay launch until early next month.

In its latest Artemis weather update, it said its main weather concerns are clouds, lightning, and rain.

“While the overall lightning threat appears low, this onshore current regime will encourage isolated showers across Atlantic waters through the launch window,” the weather forecaster said in a statement.

“As a result, the key weather issues for a Monday morning trial will be the Cumulus Cloud Rule, the Surface Electric Fields Rule and the Flight Through Precipitation Constraint.”

And to make matters worse, forecasters are also monitoring a tropical disturbance near the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean to make sure it doesn’t turn into a hurricane.

The two-hour launch window opens at 1:33pm BST (8:33am local time) on Monday and a final decision will be made 15 minutes before launch. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Artemis 1: Man’s first mission to the moon in 50 years could be nullified by lightning or raindrops

Fry Electronics Team

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