CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — It’s make-or-break time for NASA’s new moon rocket.
It’s called a rocket with 8.8 million pounds of impact Space launch system (SLS) — designed to be more powerful than the might of NASA Saturn V. Its Orion space capsule is about one-third the size of its Apollo progenitor. No spacecraft has yet passed the ultimate test: travel month and back.
That will change on Monday (August 29) when NASA plans to launch the SLS megarocket and Orion. Artemis 1The test flight serves as the vanguard of the agency’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon by 2025. Liftoff is scheduled for 8:33 a.m. (1233 GMT) from Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. You can watch the opening live online It starts at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT) on Monday.
“Our zero hour is approaching for the Artemis generation,” Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis 1 mission manager, told reporters here Saturday. “We have a high sense of expectation.”
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission: Live updates
More: 10 wild facts about the Artemis 1 mission
This expectation is not something that only NASA has. Up 200 thousand spectators are expected (opens in new tab) Flooding Florida’s Space Coast here for a glimpse of NASA’s first lunar launch in more than 50 years. Their hopes reflect NASA’s hopes for a successful mission, where success is far from certain.
“It’s a very risky mission,” said Jim Free, NASA’s deputy director for exploration systems development. “We have a lot of things that can go wrong during the mission where we can come home early, or we might have to abort to come home.”
In fact, the mission may not start at all.
“The potential consequences for us on Monday is that we could get inside the window or we could rub it for whatever reason,” Sarafin said. “We won’t promise to leave on Monday.”
NASA has a two-hour window to test and launch Artemis 1, which closes at 10:33 a.m. (1433 GMT). There is an 80% chance of good weather at the start of the window, although this drops to 60% later in the day due to the chance of rain. NASA has backup launch days in September. 2 and September 5, as needed.
Saturday, NASA has detected five lightning strikes at Pad 39B, but none of the strikes affected the SLS rocket itself. All of them struck the pad’s lightning protection system, towers and catenary wires and were not strong enough to be a concern for the launch, NASA Artemis 1 chief test director Jeff Spaulding said in an update Sunday.
Video: A few days before liftoff, Artemis 1 is struck by lightning
A long way to the launch pad
NASA has been trying to build a giant new rocket for nearly two decades. In 2004, the agency announced plans for a giant rocket, later named Ares VAs part of the Constellation program to return to the Moon by 2020. This program was eventually canceled, instead until now Artemis programthough Orion spacecraft survived the transition. Five-segment solid rocket boosters (slightly larger than those used in NASA’s shuttle program) were originally part of the Constellation. Ares 1 rocket It also found new life in the SLS to launch Orion.
“We’ve had our challenges, just like every part of this whole rocket,” Bruce Tiller, NASA’s manager of SLS boosters, told Space.com. “Everyone has had their challenges over the years. And now I think we’re as ready to go as we can be. And that’s really exciting.”
Congress ordered NASA to build the Space Launch System a decade ago, calling on the agency to use legacy shuttle hardware, such as solid rocket boosters and RS-25 main engines, to create a new vehicle for deep space exploration. The first test flight was then scheduled for 2017. It is way behind schedule.
“I would just say that space is hard,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who was in the Senate as a Florida senator when SLS was approved, said Saturday of what the agency has learned over time. “You develop new systems and that takes money and time.”
Simple but aggressive goals
NASA Free said he has “very simple but aggressive” goals for Artemis 1.
First, the mission must test Orion’s heat shield to make sure it can withstand temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 degrees Celsius) when it returns from the moon at 25,000 mph (40,000 km/h). NASA also wants to make sure it gets the SLS Orion into lunar orbit to see what the Airbus-built spacecraft with the service module looks like. European Space Agencyperforms in deep space.
The space agency also wants to recover the capsule to see its general condition after splashing into the Pacific Ocean. It carries more than 1,000 sensors to record every aspect of the flight, NASA said.
At its furthest point PlaceOrion will be 290,000 miles from our planet and 40,000 miles from the Moon—the farthest a crew-assessed capsule has ever visited (breaking the record set by Orion). Apollo 13 crew 1970). Its 42-day mission is longer than the 10 days a crewed flight would take, NASA said.
Despite its length, the mission is expected to complete only one and a half orbits of the Moon as it flies in a long, looping orbit in the opposite direction of the Moon’s orbit around Earth. This “far retrograde orbit” would take Orion about 60 miles (97 km) and 40,000 miles away, mission managers said.
He is wearing a spacesuit inside Orion “Moonik” mannequin Artemis astronauts will have to endure sensor-covered and humanoid bodies to measure the radiation environment. And perhaps the most important test: re-entry, when Orion will hit Earth’s atmospherejump a bit, then come back down for what NASA calls a “skip re-entry.”
“We’re pushing the car to its limits, really emphasizing making it crew-ready,” Sarafin said.
There are also some scientific purposes. The The Artemis 1 mission includes 10 small cubesats testing deep space exploration technologies. One called NEA Scoutwill use a solar sail to leave the moon in search of a small asteroid, while others are expected to support Artemis projects near the moon.
“Some of them are testing deep-space navigation technology. We even have an asteroid that’s going to go further out and collide with an asteroid,” said Jacob Blecher, chief intelligence scientist for NASA’s Intelligence Systems Development Mission Directorate. “But some of them will focus more on the moon with motion measurements, actually mapping where some of the water bodies might be.”
Astronauts return to the moon
If all goes well with Artemis 1, NASA will follow up Artemis 2A manned flight that will send four astronauts on a lunar orbit mission in 2024. The time lag between missions is partly to wait and see how Orion performs, and NASA may use some of the avionics and other components on Artemis 1. in manned flight.
If the Artemis 2 mission is successful, NASA hopes to follow it up with the first manned lunar landing in the 21st century. Artemis 3 In 2025. It will send two astronauts, including the moon landing The first woman on the moon — To the south pole of the Moon, depends on factors outside of SLS and Orion.
NASA needs new spacesuits and a giant lander to complete the Artemis 3 mission. SpaceX builds mass Starship A lunar lander for NASA while other companies were developing it Artemis spacesuits. If any component is delayed, it will affect the agency’s plans.
“If our suits aren’t ready, we’re not going to land on the moon, and vice versa, if our suits are ready and Starship isn’t,” Free said.
But NASA insists it is committed to a sustainable return to the moon, not just footprints, flags and photographs. The agency has already developed equipment for Artemis 2 and future SLS boosters, with plans at least through Artemis 9.
NASA has signed contracts for the creation of new components Gateway space station around the moon, to serve as a base for landing on the moon. That’s the ever-present goal marsNASA is aiming for a manned landing in the late 2030s, Nelson said.
“There’s a big, big universe out there to explore,” Nelson said. “This is the next step in exploration, and this time we’re going with our international partners.”
Email Tariq Malik email@example.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.
Leave a Comment