Tune in to CNN Saturday afternoon for live coverage from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Space Correspondent Christine Fisher and a team of experts will present reports from the launch.
The Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft are scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida between 2:17 and 4:17 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Although there is no crew on board, the mission is the first step in the Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and eventually land them on Mars.
Meteorologist Melody Lovin said at a news conference Friday morning that there is a 60% chance of favorable weather for the launch, rising to 80% toward the end of the window.
If the rocket fails to launch on Saturday, the next possible launch window will be Monday.
After launch, the Orion spacecraft will enter the far retrograde orbit of the Moon and travel 40,000 miles beyond it, further than any spacecraft designed to carry humans. Crews will board Artemis II on a similar trajectory in 2024, and astronauts are scheduled to reach the Moon’s south pole in late 2025 with the Artemis III mission. The Artemis program aims to land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon.
Orion’s journey will last about 38 days as it travels to the Moon, orbits it, and travels 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers) back to Earth. The capsule will splash into the Pacific Ocean near San Diego on October 11.
Here’s everything you can expect before, during and after the sale.
Countdown to start
On Saturday, the early release team will have a weather briefing and decide whether to start refuels the rocket.
If all looks good, the team will begin fueling the rocket’s main stage and then move on to its upper stage. The team will then charge and refill any of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen spilled during the refueling process.
A final briefing by NASA’s test director will be held approximately 50 minutes prior to launch. The launch director will poll the team to make sure each station is a “go”. 15 minutes before take off.
At 10 minutes and counting, things kick into high gear as the spacecraft and rocket make their way through the final stages. Much of the action happens at the last minute as the ground launch sequencer sends commands to take over the rocket flight computer’s automated launch sequencer.
In the last few seconds, the hydrogen will shut off, the four RS-25 engines will fire, resulting in the booster firing and T taking off at minus zero.
A trip to the moon
The solid rocket boosters will separate from the spacecraft about two minutes after liftoff and splash into the Atlantic Ocean, with other components ejected shortly after. The rocket’s main stage will separate in about eight minutes and fall toward the Pacific Ocean. Allows deployment of Orion’s solar array wings.
A short time later, the moon’s trans-lunar injection ignites 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) to escape Earth’s gravity. month
After this burn, the ICPS will separate from Orion.
At approximately 9:45 p.m. ET, Orion will make its first exit trajectory correction using the European Service Module, which provides power, propulsion and thermal control to the spacecraft. This maneuver will put Orion on the path to the Moon.
Orion will reach the Moon within a few days of launch and will be within 60 miles (96 kilometers) during closest approach on the sixth day of the journey. The service module will place Orion into a far retrograde orbit around the Moon on day 10.
Orion will also surpass the distance record of 248,654 miles (400,169 kilometers) set by Apollo 13 in 1970 when it orbits the moon on the 10th day. The spacecraft will reach a maximum distance of 280,000 miles (450,616 kilometers) from Earth when it passes 40,000 miles (64,373 kilometers) from the moon on September 23.
That’s 30,000 miles (48,280 kilometers) short of Apollo 13’s record.
On October 5, Orion will make its second closest approach to the Moon’s surface, coming within 500 miles (804 kilometers). The service module will encounter a burn that allows the moon’s gravity to return Orion back to Earth as it returns.
The service module will separate from Orion before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft will hit the top of Earth’s atmosphere traveling at about 25,000 miles per hour (40,233 kilometers per hour), and its heat shield will experience temperatures of about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).
The atmosphere will accelerate Orion to about 300 miles per hour (482 kilometers per hour), and a series of parachutes will bring it down to below 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) before splashing into the Pacific Ocean on 2. October 11 at 10:00 a.m. ET.
Splashdown will be streamed live Footage from NASA’s website, from 17 cameras on the recovery ship and helicopters awaiting Orion’s return.
The landing and recovery team will collect the Orion capsule and determine the data received from the spacecraft lessons learned before humans returned to the moon.
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