CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida. (AP) — An approaching storm threatens to delay NASA’s next launch attempt for its rocket to the new moon, which has been grounded for weeks due to fuel leaks.
A tropical depression in the southern Caribbean is moving toward Florida and could become a major hurricane.
Managers said Friday that the rocket is set to blast off on its first test flight without astronauts on Tuesday, after overcoming more hydrogen leaks during a fuel test earlier this week.
NASA said it will continue to monitor the forecast and decide by Saturday whether to not only delay the launch, but also get the rocket off the pad and back into the hangar. Officials said it was unclear when the next launch attempt would be, either in October or even November, if the rocket should seek shelter indoors.
It takes three days of preparation for the rocket to return to the Kennedy Space Center’s giant Vehicle Assembly Building, four miles away.
“I don’t think we’re getting close,” said Tom Whitmeyer, NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration systems. “We’re just taking it one step at a time.”
This would be the third attempt to launch the Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA. Fuel leaks and other technical problems scraped the first two attempts.
The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket can withstand gusts of 85 mph (137 kph) on the pad, but only 46 mph (74 kph) once in motion.
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