NASA’s ambitious Artemis 1 lunar mission will return to pad one last time before launch.
The Artemis 1 stack will make the approximately 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) journey from Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39B on August 18, Nasa confirmed on Friday (August 5). The deployment will keep Artemis 1 on track to embark on a week-long uncrewed journey around the moon at the earliest August 29.
Artemis 1 will put the Space Launch System (SLS) mega rocket and Orion spacecraft tested to ensure reliability before astronauts make a similar journey in a few years – some going all the way to the lunar surface, if NASA’s plans come to fruition.
The next launch follows intense system certifications and over a decade of planning.
“Our teams have worked extremely hard for a very, very long time to get to this point,” Rick LaBrode, Artemis 1 senior flight director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, said during a briefing. live Friday. The mission, he added, “is very special. We are extremely excited.”
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Artemis 1 will mark the first-ever launch for the SLS and just the second for Orion, which went into Earth orbit in 2014. If all goes as planned on August 29, the SLS will roar through the atmosphere to reach orbit in just 8 ,5 minutes. The upper stage of the huge rocket will then deploy Orion into a translunar injection orbit about 80 to 90 minutes after liftoff.
These milestones will kick off an action-packed 42 days in space for Orion, assuming liftoff occurs on August 29. (Mission timeline changes slightly based on launch date.)
“We really don’t have time to catch our breath. We’ve really gotten started,” said Judd Frieling, director of Artemis 1 ascent and entry flights at JSC.
As Orion soars to the moon, the SLS upper stage will be responsible for deploying cubesats for lunar science and others while pushing itself into an orbit around the sun.
Orion will target a lunar retrograde orbit. It will stay there for several weeks, then receive gravitational assistance from the moon for the return trip to Earth.
The spaceship has three main goals on Artemis 1, each of which is designed to showcase endurance. Mission team members want Orion to show that it can return through Earth’s atmosphere safely, can work consistently in a “flight environment” from launch to splashdown, and can keep the astronauts safely indoors during recovery after returning home.
Outreach activities, like taking selfies of its solar panels, will attempt to keep the public engaged for the long journey (as Orion’s data transfer rates from deep space allow).
For example: “When we get to the point where we are actually the furthest away that any human-class spacecraft has ever been, further than any of the Apollo vehicles are gone, we want to capture that in a public affairs event,” LaBrode said.
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The last major step in Orion’s mission will be a high speed return through Earth’s atmosphere, aiming for a splash site off San Diego. It will descend into the Pacific Ocean under parachutes and, just before arriving, perform a “landing orientation” maneuver to glide through the ocean waves at a right angle.
There, the vehicle’s power will remain on for about two hours to test Orion’s ability to keep the astronauts cool. A US Navy ship will then recover Orion, pulling the spacecraft out of the water, NASA officials said.
After the mission will come months of analysis to ensure that SLS and Orion are ready to transport humans. The current schedule calls for Artemis 2 to place a crew in lunar orbit in 2024 and for Artemis 3, the first human moon landing mission since Apollo 17 in 1972, to reach the surface at the earliest in 2025.
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