NASA's Orion capsule sits atop the SLS rocket on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The historic Artemis I test launch to take man back to the moon is in a good position take off from Florida on Monday, NASA officials said Sunday.
Liftoff from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B is planned for a two-hour launch window that opens at 8:33 a.m. EDT, Megan Cruz with NASA communications said in a televised briefing Sunday.
"We've had a really good day on the first day of our launch countdown," said NASA Test Director Jeff Spalding.
"Yesterday, we picked up the count right on time at 9:53 and started our clock at 10:23 in the morning. Since that time, we've been working really hard. We got the vehicles powered up and have been doing testing throughout the day and evening."
Spalding said NASA recorded five "events" from at least one lightning strike at the launch site around 1:14 p.m. Saturday but that canary circuit checks and other checks came back clear.
"We have been evaluating those through yesterday and through last night and everything to date looks good from a vehicle perspective. We haven't had to do any significant retests," Spalding said.
"We have a threshold that we look at to see what the magnitude of these strikes are and we did not meet that criteria to have do to intensive, more invasive type of retests."
Spalding said NASA has charged the batteries for the Orion capsule and the core stage of the rocket and was pressuring helium tanks on the core stage and will potentially move into the cryo-load phase of preparations around 11:53 p.m. if approved by the launch director.
Work planned into Sunday night has been "pulled in" as rainy weather was expected in the afternoon.
"We are trying to be very proactive, planning ahead and evaluating those things and adjusting as required knowing that we might get some weather as we have in the last few days," Spalding said.
Final checks will be done about two hours prior to launch and NASA has planned for a backup window of 12:48 p.m. on Friday if they cannot launch Monday. A third possible window would be on Sept. 5.
"Whenever we see things as dramatic as lightning, we pay a lot of attention to it as we should. So that just for us kicks us off into the next mode for us to evaluate what happened," Spalding said.
"I love that the weather looks favorable at the beginning of the window and my job is to get us to the beginning of the window, and that's what we're going to do."
He added that there was a possible helium leak but that it is in tolerance to be able to support the launch.
Melody Lovin, weather officer with the U.S. Space Force, said Sunday that remnant showers and a leftover thunderstorm are lingering from Saturday.
She added that the East Coast could expect to see further showers and thunderstorms Sunday.
"One thing that will benefit us today is that, though we're likely to get rain, just as we almost always do in the Space Coast in August in September, the East Coast sea breeze will creep farther across the interior central portion of the state and hopefully will give us a large block of clearing this afternoon," she said.
"We may be examining the chance for some late-night showers and maybe a thunderstorm or two, somewhere across interior Florida, but most of the conductive activity should be done for when we're looking to tank later tonight."
Lovin said that there has to be less than a 20% chance of lightning to tank and that NASA cannot fly directly through precipitation.
"We have to be flying directly through it, there's not really a standoff distance for that. So because of that, it does buy us a decent amount of real estate on the radar for us finding a hole in the clouds to launch through," Lovin said.
The launch forecast for Monday includes slight winds of up to 10 mph with a temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit with an 80% chance of favorable weather at the beginning of the launch window."
As we creep forward in time through the two-hour launch window, we just have a better chance of those off-shore showers and maybe a thunderstorm or two creeping closer to the coastline," Lovin said.
Lovin said 5 a.m. Monday will be "a pivotal time" when officials will know if the weather will comply with the launch and that the rocket should be able to be seen as far as Gainesville.
Vice President Kamala Harris will be watching from nearby at the press site and then speak about the launch, officials said.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying an Orion spacecraft lifts off on the maiden flight of NASA's Artemis Program from Complex 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center on November 16, 2022. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo