NASA has delayed the launch of its next-generation mega rocket and space capsule to the moon as Florida braces for an approaching storm.
Tropical Storm Nicole, which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane on Wednesday, is expected to hit the east coast of Florida, forcing the space agency to postpone its scheduled Nov. 14 launch. 16, during a two-hour window that opens at 1:04 p.m. ET.
The change was made to ensure staff can prepare for the storm, the agency said.
“Adjusting the target launch date will allow the workforce to attend to the needs of their families and homes and provide ample logistical time to return to launch status after the storm,” NASA officials said in a statement.
Artemis I, the mission to the moon, has been delayed several times as engineers worked to fix a number of dangerous leaks discovered during the refueling process.
The $4.1 billion flight is designed to test both the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion space capsule before NASA sends astronauts back to the lunar surface.
The rocket is located on Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39B in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA said the SLS booster was designed to withstand 85-mph winds and would remain on the launch pad throughout the storm.
“Current projections predict that the greatest risks on the pad will be high winds, which are not expected to exceed the SLS design,” agency officials said in the statement. “The rocket is designed to withstand heavy rainfall on the launch pad, and the spacecraft’s hatches have been secured to prevent water ingress.”
As of Wednesday morning, Nicole was approximately 200 miles east of West Palm Beach. The storm is already generating winds of 70 miles per hour with higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center.
It is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before impacting Florida’s east coast Wednesday night. It comes less than two months after Hurricane Ian wreaked widespread destruction in western Cuba, Florida and parts of South Carolina.
Nicole is expected to weaken as she moves through central and northern Florida and into south Georgia on Thursday, according to the hurricane center.
NASA said its teams shut down the space capsule and rocket systems before the storm and were working to protect the launch pad and area from potential debris.
If needed, the agency said a backup launch option would be available on November 19.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com