Third Time’s a Charm? NASA Sets a New Date to Launch Its Mega-Moon Rocket

The giant Space Launch System (SLS) is back on the launch pad and could fly as early as Nov. 14.

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NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket has been in development for more than 18 years and has never flown so much as an inch. But that might change on Nov. 14 at 12:07 a.m. ET, when the massive 32-story machine blasts off for a 25-day mission around the moon. That mission, known as Artemis 1, will be preparatory to a similar crewed mission that could be flown as early as 2024.

Twice before in the past several months, the rocket has been poised for launch, and twice before mechanical problems scrubbed the plans. But as NASA reports, last night in Florida at just after midnight, the rocket began its slow, nine-hour, 6.75 km (4.2 mi) creep from its hangar in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to launch pad 39B, arriving there at 8:30 a.m. today.

Mission managers are confident that this time, the third time, will be the charm. “I think everyone feels really good about the launch,” Jim Free, NASA’s director of exploration systems, told CBS News. “If we weren’t confident, we wouldn’t roll out.”

Read more: Inside NASA’s Struggle to Launch America Back to the Moon

But NASA may have to contend with variables that are entirely out of its control. On Sept. 26, the SLS, which was out on pad 39B in preparation for an impending launch attempt, had to hightail it back to the VAB in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Ian.

Next week, a “non-tropical pressure system” forming in the Caribbean could bring heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 40 knots (75 km/hr, 46 mph) to the Kennedy Space Center. Mission managers said that those conditions are within mission parameters and there will be no need to roll the rocket off the pad yet again.

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