Hurricane Dorian is gaining ground as it heads to Florida and is now expected to be a major Category 3 cyclone by the weekend. The latest forecasts of the National Hurricane Center predict that the storm will hit the coast on Monday, and although there is still a lot of uncertainty about exactly where the landfall may occur, one possibility is right around the Kennedy Space Center. NASA, the historic, $ 11 billion Space Port, used by SpaceX to launch rockets into orbit and play an integral role in NASA's planned future missions to the moon and Mars. NASA has been closely monitoring the forecast and already is beginning to make hurricane preparations .
Meteorological models from the European Center for Mid-term Weather Forecasts (19459007] show Dorian continues to travel northwest as he crosses the Bahamas before making a sharp turn to the west on Friday. fluid is not certain, which means that we cannot be sure where it will strike (or even if it will.) But if current waterfalls in central Florida around Melbourne are true, that would be historic: the tropical meteorologist F. il Klotzbach, none of the major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) has made landfall north of Florida's east coast so far, since detailed recordkeeping began in 1851.
This would also make Dorian a rare threat for the Kennedy Space Center, whose launch sites and other infrastructure, including the renowned 526-foot VAB, were originally designed to withstand wind speed in a severe Category 2 or weak Category 3 A storm. Kennedy saw his own share of damage from distant storms in the past: As Sandy walked 200 miles offshore in 2012, a powerful tide blasted a piece of shoreline between launch sites 39A and 39B, forcing NASA to undertake multimillion-dollar efforts to rebuild the coastline. When Hurricane Francis drove 100 miles south as a Category 2 storm in 2004, it tore tiles from the VAB, caused "significant damage" to other buildings, and all told caused $ 100 million in property damage between Cape Canaveral's space and military facilities.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew came very close to creating a space coastal drought as a Category 4 hurricane, a scenario that "could easily have been cataclysmic," as an Air Force official said at the time. Instead, the storm went tens of miles offshore and did only minor damage to the space port and Cape Canaveral Air Force Base
So the Kennedy people took Dorian's threat seriously. On Friday morning, the space port will enter Hurricane III status, prompting employees to start hurricane preparations in anticipation of 60 mph winds within 48 hours. The space port will close at 6:00 pm on Saturday, Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman Amanda Griffin told Motherboard in an email.
Griffin stated that teams are taking special care to protect hardware for NASA's Artemis Moon exploration program, including preparation for the relocation of a mobile launcher – a nearly 400-foot metal structure that NASA will use to assemble and launch the rocket Space Orunch System and Orion spacecraft – from its current position on the launch pad 39B at VAB, where it can wait for the storm with relative safety. On Wednesday, NASA deployed one of its 6.6 million pounds of tracked conveyors to the launch pad so it could pick up the mobile launcher and move it inside.
"NASA remains in touch with the Eastern Chain on the latest weather forecast located at the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Station," Griffin wrote in an email. "A final decision is expected to move the mobile launcher in the near future."
Hurricane Dorian is the latest reminder that despite the vital role of the Kennedy Space Center for the current and future space exploration, the space park is uniquely vulnerable to the larger Earth's weather and climate change issues. Much of Kennedy's infrastructure is located just a few feet from sea level, on an open sandy strip that, according to NASA's own analysis, is endangered by extreme weather and floods. In low-sea-level rise scenarios, NASA finds coastal flooding that occurs every ten years today can be two to three times as frequent by mid-century as sea-level rise amplifies the effects of storms.
Slight changes in the trajectory of Dorian could significantly change its impact on the Kennedy Space Center in the coming days. Let's hope this storm has spared NASA – and everyone else in Florida – the worst.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.