By the end of the decade, NASA plans to mount a total of six Artemis launches that will include crewed missions to the surface, the creation of the Artemis Basecamp, and the deployment of the Lunar Gateway. NASA also plans to upgrade key components in the mission architecture along the way, which include replacing the Space Shuttle Era engines with the newly-designed RS-25E. On December 14th, NASA tested this engine for the first time at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, completing a hot fire test that lasted for just under three and a half minutes (209.5 seconds).
The Orion spacecraft made its first close flyby of the Moon on Monday, November 21, coming as close as 81 statute miles (130 km) from the lunar surface. As the Artemis 1 mission’s uncrewed spacecraft flew past the far side of the Moon, Orion’s orbital maneuvering system engine fired for 2 minutes and 30 seconds to successfully put the capsule into the desired orbit for the mission, called a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.
“This burn is setting Orion up to orbit the Moon, and is largest propulsive event so far, as Artemis is hunting the Moon,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis Mission Manager at a briefing on Monday.
It really, finally, actually happened. The long-waited Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion capsule launched successfully and is now on its way to the Moon. After years of delays — and then two scrubbed launch attempts and a rollback of the rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building this fall — this is the first time in 50 years that a human capable spacecraft is going to the Moon. In a way, it is fitting that Artemis launched in the dark, as the last human-rated spacecraft that launched to the Moon – Apollo 17 – also had liftoff at night.
“It’s taken a lot to get here, but Orion is now on its way to the Moon,” said Jim Free, NASA deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This successful launch means NASA and our partners are on a path to explore farther in space than ever before for the benefit of humanity.”
If the next launch attempt of the Artemis I mission goes as planned, it should be a spectacular sight.
NASA is now targeting Monday, November 14 at just after midnight Eastern Time for the liftoff of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft. A 69-minute launch window opens at 12:07 a.m. EST.
NASA announced they have chosen Axiom Space to build the spacesuits for the next astronauts to walk on the Moon. The spacesuits will be used on the Artemis III mission, which is planned to land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface.
Axiom Space says the new spacesuits will provide astronauts with advanced capabilities for space exploration while providing NASA commercially developed human systems needed to access, live, and work in microgravity as well as on and around the Moon.
After reviewing the data from Monday’s scrubbed launch attempt for the Space Launch System/Artemis- 1 test flight, NASA’s Mission Management Team feels the rocket and the launch team will be ready for another try at the program’s maiden launch on Saturday, September 3. The two-hour launch window starts at 2:17 pm EDT (18:17 UTC).
Addendum: Today’s launch was scrubbed due to an engine issue that occurred during fueling. The backup date of Sept. 2nd is now targeted.
On Monday, August 29th, NASA will make history with the launch of theArtemis I mission. As the first flight in the Artemis Program, the mission will consist of a fully-stacked Space Launch System (SLS) and an Orion spacecraft taking off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once in orbit, the uncrewed Orion spacecraft and European Space Module (ESM) will fly beyond the Moon before returning to Earth. This mission will validate the key systems and components of the Artemis Program and be a dress rehearsal for the crewed Artemis II mission in 2024.
According to the Flight Readiness Review, the Artemis I mission is a GO for launch and will launch no earlier than 02:33 PM EST (11:33 PM PST). While the mission is uncrewed, the crew module will still carry two mannequins (Helga and Zohar), occupying two of the capsule’s passenger seats. Helga and Zohar will carry over 5600 sensors to measure the radiation load during the circumlunar journey. Shaun the Sheep, a character from the popular animated series Wallace and Grommit, will occupy the third seat as part of a global social media campaign.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft now sits on the launchpad, ready for liftoff on a journey around the Moon. This is the first time since 1972 that NASA has a human-rated spacecraft is ready to go beyond Earth orbit.
An interesting photo-op took place at Launch Complex 39 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. On April 6th, two different rockets were photographed occupying neighboring launch pads – LC 39A and 39B. The former was occupied by the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule (visible in the foreground) that launched the first all-private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 8th – the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1).
The latter was occupied by the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion Spacecraft that will be used to conduct the inaugural launch of the Artemis Program (Artemis I) this summer (seen in the background). This is the first time two different types of rockets and spacecraft occupied LC 39’s sister pads simultaneously. This will become the norm in the future as the KSC continues to grow and becomes a multi-user spaceport that launches government and commercial rockets.