By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower
After several delays, the first launch in NASA's Artemis Space Program is scheduled for very early Wednesday Morning (shortly after Midnight). This test mission, called Artemis I, will include no human crew but will fly beyond the Moon before returning to Earth.
Late Monday afternoon (2022 November 14), N ASA managers gave the final "go" to proceed with the launch count-down. Two technical issues, regarding how the SLS rocket and Orion space capsule came through Hurricane Nicole, were closely examined by engineers before the final "go" was given.
According to a NASA blog news-release:
"Engineers examined detailed analysis of caulk on a seam between an ogive on Orion’s launch abort system and the crew module adapter and potential risks if it were to detach during launch. The mission management team determined there is a low likelihood that if additional material tears off it would pose a critical risk to the flight.
"Technicians also completed replacing a component of an electrical connector on the hydrogen tail service mast umbilical. While swapping the component did not fully fix the issue, engineers have redundant sources of information supplied through the connector."
Live coverage of the launch and other mission highlights will be provided on NASA Television, the NASA Telephone App, and the NASA Internet Web-site. The launch of Artemis I, from the historic Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida, is currently scheduled at the beginning of the first 2-hour launch window, which opens at 1:04 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 6:04 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) early on Wednesday Morning, 2022 November 16.
Internet Link to NASA-TV located near the end of this blog-post.
Artemis I consists of NASA's new Moon rocket, called the Space Launch System (SLS) and the new Orion space capsule. As a test mission, this mission could end prematurely if major problems are experienced.
“We’re going to stress it and test it. We’re going make it do things that we would never do with a crew on it in order to try to make it as safe as possible,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told The Associated Press in August.
The primary mission of Artemis I is a proof-of-concept mission. NASA states on their Internet Web-site: “The primary goals for Artemis I are to demonstrate Orion’s systems in a spaceflight environment and ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II.”
The Artemis I mission is scheduled to last 25 days, 11 hours, and 21 minutes. In that amount of time, the Orion spacecraft is expected to travel 1.3 million statute miles / 2.09 kilometers. On the launch pad, the combined Orion space capsule and SLS rocket stand as tall as a 32-story building.
Now, Artemis I is scheduled to return to Earth for a splash-down on Sunday, 2022 December 11. A back-up launch opportunity is now scheduled for Saturday, 2022 November 19.
Major payloads aboard Artemis I include 10 small and low-cost Cube-Sat satellites to be deployed during the mission. Also, mannequins will take the place of live crew members in the Orion capsule, including "Captain Moonikin Campos" (named after Arturo Campos, an engineer who played a major role in resolving the emergency that occurred during the Apollo 13 mission), alongside NASA's Snoopy (the famous beagle from the Peanuts comic-strip) and the European Space Agency's Shaun the Sheep. In cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Israel Space Agency (ISA), a Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE) will take place during the mission, which will measure tissue radiation doses aboard Artemis 1 and test the effectiveness of the AstroRad radiation vest.
For 6 days, Artemis I will be in a distant retrograde orbit of the Moon. While at one point this orbit will bring the spacecraft within about 60 statute miles / 96.56 kilometers of the lunar surface, the orbit will also take the spacecraft well beyond the Moon.
The cost of the Artemis I mission is $4 billion. The estimated cost of the Artemis Program up until a possible 2025 lunar landing is $93 billion. This includes cost-over-runs from several years of delays.
The Orion space capsule is designed to hold a maximum of 6 astronauts; but, again, the Artemis I test mission will hold no human crew. Orion is a partially re-usable spacecraft with a Crew Module and an European Service Module. It utilizes solar panels for electrical power, an automated docking system, and glass cockpit interfaces similar to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet aircraft.
Orion can be sustained for 21 days while not docked to a space station and can last up to 6 months while docked at a space station. As Artemis I is a test mission and carries no crew, the Orion capsule will actually remain in Outer Space for more than 3 weeks, to test all aspects of the spacecraft as well as all contingencies.
The Space Launch System (SLS), the heaviest rocket ever produced by NASA, will be the vehicle used to lift the Orion capsule from Earth to the Moon. As NASA's successor to the Space Shuttle, the SLS is meant to be NASA's primary rocket for Deep Space missions with astronauts going to the Moon, Mars, Asteroid Belt, and possibly beyond.
Unlike the Space Shuttle, the Orion spacecraft will return to Earth using parachutes and splashdown in an ocean, as did the Apollo Moon missions. The Artemis I Orion capsule, utilizing a heat shield, is scheduled to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on 2022 December 11 (re-entry speed: 24,500 miles-per-hour / 39,428.928 kilometers-per-hour / Mach 32).
Before astronauts can land on the Moon, a small space station, called the Lunar Gateway, will be placed in orbit around the Moon. The Lunar Gateway Space Station is a cooperative project of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Canadian Space Agency (CSA). As the Lunar Gateway Space Station has yet to be built, Artemis I tests will not include space station dockings.
A solar-powered communications hub, the Lunar Gateway Space Station will serve as a transfer station where astronauts from Earth will transfer to a shuttle-craft for the trek to the Moon's surface. The Lunar Gateway Space Station will also be a short-term habitation module and science laboratory, as well as a holding area for rovers and other robots. Last year, NASA awarded a $2.9 billion contract to Elon Musk's SpaceX, to produce a lunar lander spacecraft for the Artemis III mission.
If all goes well with the. Artemis I mission, astronauts will board Artemis II for a loop around the Moon in 2024. And, if that goes well, Artemis III will land astronauts on the Moon, probably near the Moon's South Pole, at the end of 2025 or in 2026, including the first female astronaut and the first astronaut of-color.
Internet Link to NASA-TV Live Coverage of Artemis I Launch & Mission:
Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive
Internet Links to Additional Information ---
Artemis 1 -
Link 1 (NASA) >>> https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis-i/
Link 2 (NASA - Artemis Blog) >>> https://blogs.nasa.gov/artemis/
Link 3 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_1
Orion Space Capsule: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_(spacecraft)
Space Launch System (SLS) Rocket: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_System
Lunar Gateway Space Station: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Gateway
Related Blog-Posts ---
"UPDATE: Live-Stream: NASA Artemis I to Orbit Moon - Launch Perhaps Nov. 16."
"Public Comments Due May 31: NASA Plans to Explore Moon & Mars." Mon., 2022 May 23.
"Roll-Out Thur.: NASA's New Moon Rocket / Fly Your Name Around Moon on Artemis I." Tue., 2022 March 15.
Tuesday, 2022 November 15.
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