At approximately 11:45 a.m. today, a fire alarm was triggered in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The notification came when an arc flash event occurred at a connector on an electrical panel in High Bay 3. A spark landed on a rope marking the boundary of the work area. The rope began to smolder, workers pulled the alarm, and employees evacuated the building safely.
The incident occurred on the third floor of F-tower at the Mobile Launcher power connection. Technicians shut down power to the panel, and the center’s emergency responders declared the VAB safe for employees to return to work. There were no reported injuries, and the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft were not at risk.
The Artemis I vehicle and mobile launcher entered High Bay 3 earlier this morning after rolling back from Launch Complex 39B in advance of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to bring sustained tropical storm force winds to Kennedy as early as Wednesday evening. Engineers and technicians are evaluating the cause.
NASA continues to closely monitor the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian while conducting final preparations to allow for rolling back the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building.
Managers met Sunday evening to review the latest information on the storm from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center and decided to meet again Monday to allow for additional data gathering overnight before making the decision on roll back. NASA continues to prioritize its people while protecting the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft system.
NASA continues to closely monitor the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian as preparations for rolling back the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building continue. The agency is making incremental decisions that prioritize the agency’s people and hardware and its process is in accordance with established NASA policies for tropical storms and hurricanes.
The latest information provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center indicates a slower moving and potentially more westerly track of the storm than yesterday’s predictions showed, providing more time for the agency’s decision making process and for employees to prioritize their families should the storm impact the Kennedy Space Center area.
NASA managers will meet this evening to evaluate whether to roll back or remain at the launch pad to preserve an opportunity for a launch attempt on Oct. 2. The exact time of a potential rollback will depend on future weather predictions throughout the day and could occur Monday or very early Tuesday morning.
NASA is foregoing a launch opportunity Tuesday, Sept. 27, and preparing for rollback, while continuing to watch the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian. During a meeting Saturday morning, teams decided to stand down on preparing for the Tuesday launch date to allow them to configure systems for rolling back the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Engineers deferred a final decision about the roll to Sunday, Sept. 25, to allow for additional data gathering and analysis. If Artemis I managers elect to roll back, it would begin late Sunday night or early Monday morning.
The agency is taking a step-wise approach to its decision making process to allow the agency to protect its employees by completing a safe roll in time for them to address the needs of their families while also protecting for the option to press ahead with another launch opportunity in the current window if weather predictions improve. NASA continues to rely on the most up to date information provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center.
NASA is monitoring the forecast associated with the formation of a tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea while in parallel continuing to prepare for a potential launch opportunity on Tuesday, Sept. 27 during a 70-minute window that opens at 11:37 a.m. EDT.
Managers are initiating activities on a non-interference basis to enable an accelerated timeline for rolling back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to protect the rocket, should it be necessary. Discussions about whether to remain at the launch pad or roll back to the VAB are on-going and based on the latest forecast predictions. NASA will make a decision on whether to remain at the launch pad or roll back using incremental protocols to take interim steps necessary to protect people and hardware with a final decision anticipated no later than Saturday. The step-wise decision making process over the next day lets the agency protect its employees by completing a safe roll in time for them to address the needs of their families, while allowing flexibility to hold the launch window should weather predictions improve.
NASA is grateful to its agency partners at NOAA, United State Space Force and the National Hurricane Center for giving us the highest quality products to protect our nation’s flight test to return us to the Moon.
Launch controllers have completed the pre-pressurization test, obtaining pressure and temperature level readings as desired. Controllers are continuing with the procedures for today’s test, gathering additional data.
Launch controllers have reached the replenish phase of liquid hydrogen loading operations for the interim cryogenic propulsion stage of the Space Launch System rocket and are continuing operations to load liquid oxygen into the upper stage. Teams are moving into operations to conduct a pre-pressurization test, in which engineers will bring the core stage liquid hydrogen tank up to the pressure level it will experience just before launch while engineers calibrate the settings for conditioning the engines at a higher flow rate, as will be done during the terminal count on launch day. The pre-pressurization test is expected to last about an hour.
The Space Launch System’s core stage liquid hydrogen tank is now full and is being replenished as some of the supercold propellant boils off. Since resuming liquid hydrogen fast fill operations, the rate of the hydrogen leak at the tail service mast umbilical quick disconnect has remained within allowable rates. The core stage liquid oxygen tank also is in the replenish phase.
Teams are pressing ahead with operations to load propellants into the interim cryogenic propulsion stage of the rocket. Once liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen loading on the stage reach the replenish phase, the pre-press test, one of the objectives for today’s demonstration, will occur.
The pre-pressurization test will bring the core stage liquid hydrogen tank up to the pressure level it will experience just before launch while engineers calibrate the settings for conditioning the engines at a higher flow rate, as will be done during the terminal count on launch day.
Launch controllers have detected a hydrogen leak in a cavity in the tail service mast umbilical and have stopped flowing the propellant to the rocket while they troubleshoot the issue. Engineers will warm up the quick disconnect, or interface where the fuel feed line connects to the rocket, to attempt to reseat it.
After chilling the lines for liquid oxygen (LOX), teams have begun the slow fill phase to load LOX into the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage and have started chilling down the transfer line for the liquid hydrogen (LH2). Once LOX slow fill is complete, teams will transition to fast fill operations. Once the LH2 chilldown operations are complete, slow fill of liquid hydrogen will begin.
Follow along with live coverage and with the countdown milestones for the cryogenic demonstration test ahead of the Artemis I mission.