The uncrewed Artemis I mission, comprising the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft, is targeting liftoff August 29 between 8:33 a.m. ET and 10:33 a.m. ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Although there is no human crew aboard the mission, it is the first stage of the Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and eventually land them on Mars.
The Orion spacecraft will enter a far retrograde orbit of the moon and travel 40,000 miles beyond, going farther than any spacecraft intended to carry humans. Crews will board Artemis II on a similar trajectory in 2024, and the first woman and next man to land on the moon are expected to arrive at the lunar south pole in late 2025 as part of the Artemis III mission.
Appearances by celebrities like Jack Black, Chris Evans and Keke Palmer and performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock and “America the Beautiful” by The Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma are also part of from the program. .
Once launched, NASA will hold a post-launch briefing, and later today the agency will share the first views of Earth from cameras aboard the Orion spacecraft.
Orion’s journey will last 42 days as he travels to the moon, loops around it and returns to Earth – covering a total of 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers). The capsule will dive into the Pacific Ocean off San Diego on October 10.
Here’s everything you can expect before, during and after launch.
Countdown to launch
The countdown to the official launch will begin on August 27 at 10:23 a.m. ET.
The call to stations will take place Saturday morning at the Kennedy Space Center, along with teams providing support from various centers across the country. This is when all the teams associated with the mission arrive at their consoles and signal that they are ready, starting a two-day countdown.
Over the weekend, engineers will power up the Orion spacecraft, the cryogenic propulsion midstage (the top part of the rocket) and the core stage, charge the batteries and do final preparation for the engines.
Late Sunday night through Monday morning, the launch team will hold a briefing to discuss weather conditions and decide if they are “go” or “no go” to start fueling the rocket.
If all looks good, the team will start fueling the rocket’s core stage eight hours before launch. Five hours before, the upper stage will start refueling. Then the team will top up and replenish the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that dissipates during the refueling process.
Approximately 50 minutes before launch, the NASA Test Director’s final briefing will take place. A scheduled 30-minute countdown will begin approximately 40 minutes before launch.
The launch director will interview the team to ensure that each station has “left” 15 minutes before liftoff.
At 10+ minutes, things kick into high gear as the spacecraft and rocket take the final stages. Much of the action takes place in the last minute, as the ground-based launch sequencer sends the command to the rocket’s flight computer’s automated launch sequencer to take over about 30 seconds before launch.
In the final seconds, the hydrogen will burn, all four RS-25 engines will start, resulting in a booster ignition and liftoff at T minus zero.
Journey to the Moon
After liftoff, the solid rocket boosters will separate from the spacecraft approximately two minutes into flight and crash into the Atlantic Ocean, with other components also jettisoned soon after. The rocket’s core stage will separate about eight minutes later and fall toward the Pacific Ocean, allowing Orion’s solar array wings to unfurl.
The Perigree Raise maneuver will occur approximately 12 minutes after launch, when the ICPS undergoes a burn to raise Orion’s altitude so that it does not re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. Shortly thereafter is the trans-lunar injection burn, when the ICPS increases Orion’s speed from 17,500 miles per hour (28,163 kilometers per hour) to 22,600 miles per hour (36,371 kilometers per hour). hour) to escape the pull of Earth’s gravity and set off for the moon.
After this burn, the ICPS will separate from Orion.
At approximately 4:30 p.m., Orion will perform its first outbound trajectory correction burn using the European Service Module, which provides the spacecraft with power, propulsion and thermal control. This maneuver will put Orion on a path to the moon.
The next few days after launch, Orion will venture to the moon, less than 96 kilometers away on its closest approach to the lunar surface on the sixth day of the voyage – or September 3 if the launch takes place as planned in August. . 29. The Service Module will place Orion in a distant retrograde orbit around the moon on Day 10 or September 7.
Orion will surpass the distance record of 248,654 miles (400,169 kilometers) – set by Apollo 13 in 1970 – on September 8 when it circles the moon. The spacecraft will reach its maximum distance from Earth of 280,000 miles (450,616 kilometers) on September 23 when it ventures 40,000 miles (64,373 kilometers) beyond the moon.
That’s 30,000 miles (48,280 kilometers) more than Apollo 13’s record.
Orion will make its second closest approach to the lunar surface, less than 804 kilometers away, on October 3. The service module will undergo a burn that will allow the moon’s gravity to send Orion back on its way to Earth.
Just before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the service module will separate from Orion. The spacecraft will reach the top of Earth’s atmosphere traveling at around 25,000 miles per hour (40,233 kilometers per hour), and its heat shield will experience temperatures of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).
The atmosphere will slow Orion to about 300 miles per hour (482 kilometers per hour), and a series of parachutes will slow it to less than 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) before it crashes into the ocean. Pacific at 11:53 a.m.
Splashdown will stream live from NASA’s website, collecting views from 17 cameras aboard the recovery ship and helicopters that will await Orion’s return.
The landing and recovery team will collect the Orion capsule, and the data collected by the spacecraft will determine what lessons have been learned before humans return to the moon.