NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar rocket will launch in August. 18 for lunar launch

NASA’s ambitious lunar mission Artemis 1 is about to return to the pad for the last time before launch.

The Artemis 1 stack will travel approximately 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center to Launch Complex 39B on August 1. 18, NASA confirmed on Friday (August 5). The deployment will allow Artemis 1 to embark on a week-long unmanned journey around the moon no earlier than August. 29.

Artemis 1 will test the Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket and Orion spacecraft to ensure reliability against astronauts who make a similar flight in a few years – some of them will make it to the surface of the Moon if NASA’s plans come to fruition. fetus.

The upcoming launch follows extensive system certification and more than a decade of planning.

“Our teams have been working very hard for a very, very long time to get to this point,” Rick Labroad, lead flight director for Artemis 1 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, said in a live briefing on Friday. He added that this mission is “very special. We are very excited.”

Related: NASA Artemis 1 Lunar Mission: Operational Updates
Read more: NASA Artemis 1 Lunar Mission Explained in Photos

Artemis 1 will be the first ever launch of SLS and only the second launch of Orion, which entered Earth orbit back in 2014. 29, the SLS will fly through the atmosphere and reach orbit in just 8.5 minutes. The upper stage of the huge rocket would then carry Orion into lunar orbit about 80 to 90 minutes after liftoff.

These milestones will kick-start Orion’s eventful 42 days in space, assuming launch in August. 29. (Mission time varies slightly depending on the launch date.)

“There really is no time to catch your breath. We really hit the ground running,” said Judd Freeling, Director of Artemis 1 Ascent and AO Entry Flight.

Orion spacecraft on the background of the Earth

NASA Orion spacecraft in Earth orbit. (Image credit: NASA)

As Orion makes its way to the moon, the SLS upper stage will be tasked with deploying cubesats for lunar and other scientific exploration, while it itself enters orbit around the sun.

Orion will be guided into a retrograde lunar orbit. It will stay there for a few weeks and then get the gravitational support of the Moon to return to Earth.

The spacecraft has three primary targets on Artemis 1, each designed to demonstrate endurance. Mission team members want Orion to show that it can return safely through Earth’s atmosphere, can operate stably in “flight conditions” from launch to splashdown, and can keep astronauts inside safe during searches after returning home.

Outreach activities such as the solar panel selfie will attempt to draw public attention to the long journey (as far as Orion’s data rate from deep space allows).

For example: “When we get to the point where we will actually be the furthest that any human spacecraft has ever been, further than any of the Apollo spacecraft, we want to capture this in a communications event with the public,” Labrode said. .

Related: How NASA’s Artemis moon landing works with astronauts

The last major milestone of the Orion mission will be a high-speed re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere for a splashdown off the coast of San Diego. It will descend into the Pacific Ocean under parachutes and, shortly before arrival, perform a “landing orientation” maneuver to glide into the ocean waves at the correct angle.

There, the ship’s power will remain on for about two hours to test how well Orion is doing to keep the astronauts cool. According to NASA officials, a US Navy ship will then deliver the Orion, plucking the spacecraft out of the water.

After the mission, there will be months of analysis to make sure the SLS and Orion are actually ready to carry people. The current schedule calls for Artemis 2 to put a crew into orbit around the Moon in 2024, and Artemis 3, the first manned mission to the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, will land on the surface no earlier than 2025.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) and on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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