NASA watching weather ahead of Monday’s anticipated Artemis I launch


One of the primary factors that could get in the way of NASA’s launch of the most powerful rocket ever is Florida’s weather.  Artemis I is scheduled for liftoff at 8:33 a.m. eastern time on Monday from launch complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center with its destination set for the Moon.

During NASA’s last mission briefing to the media on Sunday morning, Melody Lovin, Weather Officer for Space Launch Delta 45 said, “The beginning of the launch window just after 8:30 in the morning has an 80% chance of favorable weather.”

There’s a 2-hour window during which NASA will attempt to launch the uncrewed test mission which will ultimately take humanity back to the moon.  There are several weather-related hazards that NASA monitors to determine whether it’s safe to launch including temperature, wind, precipitation, lightning and clouds.  As it gets later in Monday’s launch window, there’s a greater chance for offshore showers and maybe a thunderstorm to creep across the Spaceport.

If there’s any rain over the launch pad, NASA weather criteria won’t permit Artemis I to take off.  “You can’t fly through any rain,” Lovin said. “There’s not a standoff distance for that and so because of that that buys us a decent amount of real estate on the radar as far as finding the hole in the clouds for us to launch through.”

But it’s not just the weather at launch time that matters.  Mission meteorologists will be paying close attention to the weather conditions throughout the countdown preparations – especially Sunday evening when the team is slated to begin “tanking” – the process of fueling the tanks with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

Thunderstorms Saturday produced lightning that struck the lightning protection system at Launch Pad 39B.  Overnight engineers evaluated the impact and confirmed the strikes were of low magnitude and had no impact on the Space Launch System, Orion or the ground systems.

“Bottom line we look really good. No issues. No concerns or constraints from the lightning events at this point,” said Jeff Spaulding, NASA Test Director for Artemis I.

Floridians are accustomed to seeing the images of rockets lifting off from the Cape.  Despite it being a daytime launch, Lovin said there’s a good chance Gainesville area residents will be able to see evidence of the liftoff – even roughly 200 miles away from the Space Coast.  “You will see more of a fireball with this one than any of the more recent launches that we’ve had,” said Lovin.

WUFT Chief Meteorologist Jeff George added, “Since clouds are usually the fewest and thinnest in the early morning, there’s a good chance Gainesville and north central Florida residents will be able to view the distant fireball to our southeast.”

We’re 100% confident you can watch it here on where we’ll stream NASA live coverage beginning at 6:30 a.m.

About Denise Vickers

Denise is the director of the Innovation News Center and WUFT News at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.

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