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NASA managers decide finally to roll SLS back to assembly building

NASA managers this morning finally gave up on launching their SLS rocket in an early October launch window and scheduled rolling back the rocket to the assembly building tonight.

NASA will roll the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Monday, Sept. 26. First motion is targeted for 11 p.m. EDT.

Managers met Monday morning and made the decision based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian, after additional data gathered overnight did not show improving expected conditions for the Kennedy Space Center area. The decision allows time for employees to address the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system. The time of first motion also is based on the best predicted conditions for rollback to meet weather criteria for the move.

Based on this graph [pdf] provided by NASA earlier this year, the next launch window is from October 17 to October 31, followed by another from November 12 to November 27. It is unclear whether they can meet that first window, even if all engineers do is check and recharge the flight termination system batteries.

The question of the rocket’s two solid-fueled boosters however looms. Both are now one year past NASA’s use-by date, and it appears somewhat unknown what the risks are using them. Replacing them however will entail a significant delay, from three to six months.

As I said this weekend, NASA managers face no good choice, because of the impractical and inefficient design of this rocket.

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4 comments

  • Richard M

    It is unclear whether they can meet that first window, even if all engineers do is check and recharge the flight termination system batteries.

    Dr. Zerbucchen just made a statement that seemed to rule out any October launch window attempt. (I suspect SRB restacking is not part of the reason, because there’s just no way they could de-stack the launcher and stack new SRB’s and still launch in any time in November.)

    “What we’ve been trying to do over the last few days is really balance those (priorities) and learn more as the hurricane is approaching us,” Zurbuchen told FOX Weather. “The threat at this moment in time has been considered high enough based on all these inputs that it’s just the right thing to roll back, which means that we bring it back and … in the mid to late November timeframe is really the next time we can roll back out and take another shot on goal.”

    https://www.foxweather.com/earth-space/nasa-to-begin-rolling-back-artemis-1-rocket-to-prepare-for-hurricane-ian

    As I said this weekend, NASA managers face no good choice, because of the impractical and inefficient design of this rocket.

    This has to be the most fragile and finicky major launch system & GSE I’ve ever seen.

  • Richard M: To blow my own horn, I have been calling SLS cumbersome and poorly designed since 2011. It never made sense, from either a budget or design perspective.

  • Col Beausabre

    SLS reminds me of the 1965 film FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX about a collection of ill-matched parts made into an aircraft by a desperate crew and passengers? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bIUOPSzbVM or in real life the D-2 1/2- A Chinese DC3 repaired with a DC2 wing (yes, singular – one DC2 and one DC3) http://cnac.org/aircraft02.htm https://www.reddit.com/r/WeirdWings/comments/l03qsq/dc2%C2%BD_dc3_repaired_with_a_wing_of_a_dc2/

  • Richard M

    Richard M: To blow my own horn, I have been calling SLS cumbersome and poorly designed since 2011. It never made sense, from either a budget or design perspective.

    Indeed you have, and rightly so!

    It made no sense in 2011 save as a jobs program. It makes even less sense now.

    I will be happy for all the NASA schleps who worked on this thing if and when it actually gets into space. But hopefully it will be euthanized before too long. As you have repeatedly contended, NASA has no business operating launch vehicles any longer (let alone such a poorly thought one).

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