NASA’s ambitious 1-month Artemis mission is to return to the platform for one last time before launch.
The Artemis 1 stack will be commissioned on its approximately 4-mile (6.4 km) journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center to Launch Complex 39B on August 18. NASA confirmed Friday (August 5). The launch will put Artemis 1 on track to begin its week-long unmanned journey around the Moon after August 29.
Artemis 1 will deploy the megarocket Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft with its advances to ensure reliability before astronauts make similar trips a few years from now – some even reach the lunar surface, if NASA’s plans bear fruit.
The next launch will come with intensive system certification and over a decade of planning.
“Our team has worked very hard for a very long time to get to this point,” Rick Labrode, Artemis 1 flight manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, said in a live briefing Friday. He said the mission was “very special. We are very excited.”
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Artemis 1 will mark the first launch of SLS and only the second for Orion, which entered Earth orbit in 2014. If all goes to plan on Aug. 29, SLS will roar through the atmosphere to reach orbit in just 8.5 minutes. The top stage of the giant Orion rocket will deploy to lunar ejection orbit approximately 80 to 90 minutes after liftoff.
The feat will begin an action-packed 42-day journey into space for Orion, assuming liftoff occurs on Aug. 29 (mission times change slightly depending on launch date).
“There really isn’t time to catch your breath. We really managed to run,” said Judd Frilling, JSC Ascent and Artemis 1’s entry travel director.
As Orion moves toward the Moon, the SLS upper stage will be tasked with propelling the cube to the Moon and other sciences as it propels itself into an orbit around the Sun.
Orion will target the backward orbiting Moon. He’ll be there for a few weeks, then receive gravity assists to travel from the Moon back to Earth.
The spacecraft in Artemis 1 has three main goals, each designed to demonstrate endurance. Members of the mission team wanted to show Orion that it could return safely through Earth’s atmosphere, operate continuously in a “flying atmosphere” from launch to launch, and return home to astronauts. Can be safely kept indoors while it recovers.
Outreach activities, such as taking selfies of its solar panels, will seek to engage the public on longer journeys (as made possible by Orion’s data transmission speeds from space).
For example: “When we get to the point where we’re actually farthest from a human-classified spacecraft, the farthest from any spacecraft. The Apollo vehicle is missing, we want to immortalize it at a public event.” are,” said Labrude.
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The final major milestone in the Orion mission was a high-speed re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere with the goal of reaching a water delivery site off the coast of San Diego. He will land in the Pacific Ocean under a parachute, and just before his arrival, will perform his “downward” maneuver to slide it into the ocean waves at the right angle.
There, the vehicle will continue to power for about two hours to test how well Orion can maintain cooling for the astronauts. NASA officials say a US Navy ship will retrieve Orion by catching the spacecraft from the water.
Months of analysis after the mission would confirm that SLS and Orion are indeed ready to take on humans. The current timeline calls for Artemis 2 for the crew to orbit the Moon in 2024, and Artemis 3, the first manned-landing mission on the Moon since then. Apollo 17 in 1972, to land on the surface after 2025.
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