Artemis I – Flight Day 12: Orion Star Trackers, Reaction Control Thrusters Tested 

A spacecraft is seen in space with the Moon in the distance
art001e000479 (Nov. 24, 2022) – On flight day 9, NASA’s Orion spacecraft captured imagery looking back at the Moon from a camera mounted on one of its solar arrays. The spacecraft is enroute to a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.

On the 12th day of the Artemis I mission, team members conducted another planned test of the star trackers aboard Orion as it continued along a distant retrograde orbit of the Moon, and began another reaction control thruster flight test. 

Engineers hope to characterize the alignment between the star trackers and the Orion inertial measurements units, both of which are part of the guidance, navigation and control system, by exposing different areas of the spacecraft to the Sun and activating the star trackers in different thermal states. Star trackers are navigation tools that measure the positions of stars to help the spacecraft determine its orientation. The inertial measurement units contain three devices, called gyros, used to measure spacecraft body rotation rates, and three accelerometers used to measure spacecraft accelerations.  

Together, the star tracker and inertial measurement unit data are used by Orion’s vehicle management computers to compute spacecraft position, velocity, and attitude. The measurements will help engineers understand how thermal states affect the accuracy of the navigation state, which ultimately affects the amount of propellant needed for spacecraft maneuvers. Read more about Orion’s guidance, navigation, and control system in the Artemis I reference guide. 

Engineers began a development flight test objective today that changed the minimum jet firing time for the reaction control thrusters over a period of 24 hours. This test objective is designed to exercise the reaction control system jets in a different configuration to model how thruster jets will be used for the crewed Artemis II mission. 

Teams also activated and interacted with the Callisto payload, a technology demonstration from Lockheed Martin in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco. Callisto is located in the Orion cabin and will test voice activated and video technology in the deep space environment. 

Monday, Nov. 28, Orion will reach its farthest distance from Earth when it is nearly 270,000 miles from our home planet. 

As of 4:30 p.m. CST, Orion was over 264,000  miles from Earth and 45,600  miles from the Moon, cruising at 1,750 miles per hour. 

To follow the mission real-time, you can track Orion during its mission around the Moon and back, and check the NASA TV schedule for updates on the next televised events. The latest imagery and videos can be found on the Johnson Space Center Flickr. 

 

Artemis I – Flight Day 11: Orion Surpasses Apollo 13 Record Distance from Earth

On flight day 11, NASA’S Orion spacecraft captured imagery looking back at the Earth from a camera mounted on one of its solar arrays. The spacecraft is currently in a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.

On day 11 of the Artemis I mission, Orion continues its journey beyond the Moon after entering a distant retrograde orbit Friday, Nov. 25, at 3:52 p.m. CST. Orion will remain in this orbit for six days before exiting lunar orbit to put the spacecraft on a trajectory back to Earth and f a Sunday, Dec. 11, splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Orion surpassed the distance record for a mission with a spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space and back to Earth, at 7:42 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. The record was set during the Apollo 13 mission at 248,655 miles from our home planet. At its maximum distance from the Moon, Orion will be more than 270,000 miles from Earth Monday, Nov. 28.

Engineers also completed the first orbital maintenance burn by firing auxiliary thrusters on Orion’s service module at 3:52 p.m. for less than a second to propel the spacecraft at .47 feet per second. The planned orbital maintenance burns will fine-tune Orion’s trajectory as it continues its orbit around the Moon.

Flying aboard Orion on the Artemis I mission is a suited manikin named after a key player in bringing Apollo 13 safely back to Earth. Arturo Campos was an electrical engineer who developed a plan to provide the command module with enough electrical power to navigate home safely after an oxygen tank aboard the service module of the Apollo spacecraft ruptured. Commander Moonikin Campos is outfitted with sensors to provide data on what crew members may experience in flight, continuing Campos’ legacy of enabling human exploration in deep space.

Artemis builds on the experience of Apollo. With Artemis, humans will return to the lunar surface, and this time to stay. NASA will use innovate technologies to explore the Moon’s South Pole and more of the lunar surface than ever before using the Gateway space station in lunar orbit along with advanced spacesuits and rovers. NASA will lead the way in collaboration with international and commercial partners to establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.

As of 1:16 p.m., Orion was 252,133 miles from Earth and 52,707 miles from the Moon, cruising at 2,013 miles per hour. You can track Orion via the Artemis Real-Time Orbit Website, or AROW.

Learn more about how Apollo builds on Artemis and how Orion is designed for human missions to deep space.

 

 

 

 

Artemis I – Flight Day 10: Orion Enters Distant Retrograde Orbit 

Flight Controllers in the White Flight Control Room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston successfully performed a burn to insert Orion into a distant retrograde orbit by firing the orbital maneuvering system engine for 1 minutes and 28 seconds at 4:52 p.m. CST, propelling the spacecraft at 363 feet per second. Shortly before conducting the burn, Orion was traveling more than 57,00  miles above the lunar surface, marking the farthest distance it will reach from the Moon during the mission. While in lunar orbit, flight controllers will monitor key systems and perform checkouts while in the environment of deep space.  

The orbit is distant in that Orion will fly about 40,000 miles above the Moon. Due to the distance of the orbit, it will take Orion nearly a week to complete half an orbit around the Moon, where it will exit the orbit for the return journey home. About four days later, the spacecraft will harness the Moon’s gravitational force once again, combined with a precisely timed lunar flyby burn to slingshot Orion onto its return course to Earth ahead of splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Dec. 11.  

On Saturday, Nov. 26, Orion spacecraft will break the record for farthest distance traveled by a spacecraft designed to carry humans to space and safely return them to Earth. This distance is currently held by the Apollo 13 spacecraft at 248,655 miles (400,171 km) from Earth. Orion was specifically designed for missions to carry humans farther into space than ever before.  

On Artemis I, engineers are testing several aspects of the Orion spacecraft needed for deep space missions with crew, including its highly capable propulsion system to maintain its course with precision and ensure its crew can get home, communication and navigation systems to maintain contact with the ground and orient the spacecraft, systems and features to handle radiation events, as well as a heat shield that can handle a high-speed reentry from the Moon. Both distance and duration demand that spacecraft must have systems that can reliably operate far from home, be capable of keeping astronauts alive in case of emergencies and still be light enough that a rocket can launch it.  

Artemis II will test the systems required for astronauts to live and breathe in deep space. Long duration missions far from Earth drive engineers to design compact systems not only to maximize available space for crew comfort, but also to accommodate the volume needed to carry consumables like enough food and water for the entirety of a mission lasting days or weeks.  

Learn more about Orion’s capabilities for deep space missions with crew. 

Watch Live Now: NASA Television Coverage of Orion’s Distant Retrograde Insertion

Live coverage is underway on NASA Television, the agency’s  website, and the NASA app for Orion’s distant retrograde orbit insertion burn as a part of the Artemis I mission. The burn is planned for 4:52 p.m. EST. Orion will fire the orbital maneuvering system engine on its European service module to propel the spacecraft into an orbit over 40,000 miles above the surface of the Moon. The distant retrograde orbit provides a highly stable destination where little fuel is required to stay while engineers put Orion’s systems to the test in a deep space environment far from Earth. 

The orbital maneuvering system engine on the European Service Module is the main engine that provides the primary propulsion for Orion’s major in-space maneuvers. The engine provides 6,000 pounds of thrust and is equipped to steer the spacecraft. Orion’s European Service Module is provided by ESA (European Space Agency) with contributions from 10 European countries and the United States, including Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Spain, and the Netherlands.  

Earlier in the day on flight day 10 of the 25.5-day mission, engineers continued planned testing with the star tracker in a variety of orientations in deep space as part of one of several flight test objectives 

Orion is currently traveling over 237,000 miles from Earth and over 57,000 miles from the Moon, cruising at about 2,300 miles per hour.   

Learn more about Orion in the Artemis I reference guide, and track Orion via the Artemis Real-Time Orbit Website, or AROW.  

Artemis I – Flight Day Nine: Orion One Day Away from Distant Retrograde Insertion

Orion and the Moon
On Flight Day 8, NASA’s Orion spacecraft remains two days away from reaching its distant retrograde orbit. The Moon is in view as Orion snaps a selfie using a camera mounted on one of its solar array at 10:57 p.m. EST..

Orion is now about one day away from entering into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. The orbit is “distant” in the sense that it’s at a high altitude approximately 50,000 miles from the surface of the Moon. Due to the distance, the orbit is so large that it will take the spacecraft six days to complete half of a revolution around the Moon before exiting the orbit for the return journey back to Earth.

During the last day in the transit to distant retrograde orbit, flight controllers performed a third in a series of planned star tracker development flight tests relative to the Sun, with a fourth planned for tomorrow. Star trackers are a navigation tool that measure the positions of stars to help the spacecraft determine its orientation. In the first three flight days, engineers evaluated initial data to understand star tracker readings correlated to thruster firings.

The spacecraft completed its sixth outbound trajectory correction burn at 3:52 p.m. CST, firing the European Service Module’s auxiliary engines for 17 seconds to propel the spacecraft at 8.9 feet per second. This is the final trajectory correction before entering distant retrograde orbit. When in lunar orbit, Orion will perform three orbital maintenance burns to keep the spacecraft on course.

Overnight, engineers will begin a 24-hour test of the reaction control system engines to evaluate engine performance for standard and non-standard thruster configurations. This test will provide data to inform procedures and ensure that the reaction control thrusters can control Orion’s orientation in an alternate configuration if there is an issue with the primary configuration.

Just after 1:42 p.m. CST on Nov. 24, Orion was traveling 222,993 miles from Earth and 55,819 miles from the Moon, cruising at 2,610 miles per hour.

NASA Television coverage of the distant retrograde orbit insertion burn, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 25. The burn is scheduled to take place at 4:52 p.m.

Images are sent down to Earth, and uploaded to NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, views of the mission will be available in real-time via video stream.

Artemis I – Flight Day Eight: Orion Exits the Lunar Sphere Of Influence

(Nov. 22, 2022) Flight Day 7, Orion’s Optical Navigation camera captured the far side of the Moon, as the spacecraft orbited 81.1 miles above the surface, heading for a Distant Retrograde Orbit. Orion uses the optical navigation camera to capture imagery of the Earth and the Moon at different phases and distances, providing an enhanced body of data to certify its effectiveness under different lighting conditions as a way to help orient the spacecraft on future missions with crew.

On the eighth day of its mission, Orion continues to travel farther away from the Moon as it prepares to enter a distant retrograde orbit. The orbit is “distant” in the sense that it’s at a high altitude from the surface of the Moon, and it’s “retrograde” because Orion will travel around the Moon opposite the direction the Moon travels around Earth.  

Orion exited the gravitational sphere of influence of the Moon Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 9:49 p.m. CST at a lunar altitude of 39,993 miles. The spacecraft will reach its farthest distance from the Moon Friday, Nov 25, just before performing the next major burn to enter the orbit. The distant retrograde orbit insertion burn is the second in a pair of maneuvers required to propel Orion into the highly stable orbit that requires minimal fuel consumption while traveling around the Moon.   

NASA’s Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston unexpectedly lost data to and from the spacecraft at 12:09 a.m. for 47 minutes while reconfiguring the communication link between Orion and Deep Space Network. Teams have resolved the issue, and the spacecraft remains in a healthy configuration while engineers analyze data to determine the cause. 

While in transit to the distant retrograde orbit, engineers conducted the first part of the propellant tank slosh development flight test, called prop slosh, which is scheduled during quiescent, or less active, parts of the mission. The test calls for flight controllers to fire the reaction control system thrusters when propellant tanks are filled to different levels. Engineers measure the effect the propellant sloshing has on spacecraft trajectory and orientation as Orion moves through space. The test is performed after the outbound flyby burn and again after the return flyby burn to compare data at points in the mission with different levels of propellant onboard.  

Propellant motion, or slosh, in space is difficult to model on Earth because liquid propellant moves differently in tanks in space than on Earth due to the lack of gravity. The reaction control thrusters are located on the sides of the service module in six sets of four. These engines are in fixed positions and can be fired individually as needed to move the spacecraft in different directions or rotate it into any position. Each engine provides about 50 pounds of thrust. 

As of Wednesday, Nov. 23, a total of about 3,971 pounds of propellant has been used, about 147 pounds less than prelaunch expected values. There is more than 2,000 pounds of margin available over what is planned for use during the mission, an increase of about 74 pounds from prelaunch expected values.  

Just after 1 p.m. CST on Nov. 23, Orion was traveling about 212,437 miles from Earth and was more than 48,064 miles from the Moon, cruising at 2,837 miles per hour.    

To follow the mission real-time, you can track Orion during its mission around the Moon and back, view a live stream from Orion’s cameras, and find the latest imagery and videos on Flickr. The second episode of Artemis All Access is now available as a recap of the last few days of the mission with a look ahead to what’s coming next.  

Artemis I – Flight Day Eight Update: Unexpected Loss of Communication with Orion is Restored

NASA’s Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston unexpectedly lost data to and from the spacecraft at 12:09 a.m. CST for 47 minutes while reconfiguring the communication link between Orion and Deep Space Network overnight. The reconfiguration has been conducted successfully several times in the last few days, and the team is investigating the cause of the loss of signal. The team resolved the issue with a reconfiguration on the ground side. Engineers are examining data from the event to help determine what happened, and the command and data handling officer will be downlinking data recorded onboard Orion during the outage to include in that assessment. There was no impact to Orion, and the spacecraft remains in a healthy configuration.

Artemis I – Flight Day Seven: Orion to Test Search Acquire and Track Mode, Exit Lunar Sphere of Influence

The Orion spacecraft is now on its seventh day into the Artemis I mission, a flight test around the Moon, paving the way for astronauts to fly on future missions. At 12:02 a.m. CST, Orion completed the fifth outbound trajectory correction by firing the European service module’s auxiliary engines for 5.9 seconds, which changed Orion’s velocity by 3.2 feet per second.  

The R-4D-11 auxiliary engines are a variant of the flight proven R-4D engine, which was originally developed for the Apollo program and was employed on every mission to the Moon. The engines are positioned at the bottom of the service module in four sets of two, and each provide about 100 pounds of thrust. In total, Orion’s highly capable service module has 33 engines of various sizes and serves as the powerhouse for the spacecraft, providing propulsion capabilities that enable Orion to go around the Moon and back on its exploration missions.  

The team in the White Flight Control Room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston continued testing the spacecraft’s star trackers to determine their sensitivity to thermal variations as part of planned testing, and engineers used the optical navigation system to gather additional imagery of the Moon. The star trackers and optical navigation system are part of Orion’s advanced guidance, navigation, and control system, responsible for always knowing where the spacecraft is located in space, which way it’s pointed, and where it’s going. It even controls the propulsion system to keep the spacecraft on the correct path. The optical navigation can serve later in this mission and in future missions as a backup, ensuring a safe trip home should the spacecraft lose communications. 

Download this video in high-resolution.

Overnight, flight controllers will conduct the search acquire and track (SAT) mode developmental test objective. SAT mode is an algorithm intended to recover and maintain communications with Earth after loss of Orion’s navigation state, extended loss of communications with Earth, or after a temporary power loss that causes Orion to reboot hardware. To test the algorithm, flight controllers will command the spacecraft to enter SAT mode, and after about 15 minutes, restore normal communications. Testing SAT mode will give engineers confidence it can be relied upon as the final option to fix a loss of communications when crew are aboard. 

Orion will exit the lunar sphere of influence, or the gravitational pull of the Moon, at 10:31 p.m. CST and continue traveling toward distant retrograde orbit. The next live event will be NASA Television coverage of the distant retrograde orbit insertion burn, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 25. Shortly before entering the orbit, Orion will travel about 57,287 miles beyond the Moon at its farthest point from the lunar surface during the mission. View the Artemis I mission map to see Orion’s path in space.  

On Saturday, Nov. 26, Orion will pass the record set by Apollo 13 for the farthest distance traveled by a spacecraft designed for humans at 248,655 miles from Earth, and the spacecraft will reach its maximum distance from Earth of 268,552 miles Monday, Nov. 28.  

Just after 4 p.m. CST on Nov. 22, Orion was traveling over 208,000  miles from Earth and was over 36,000  miles from the Moon, cruising at over 3,000  miles per hour.   

Listen to a replay of the Twitter Spaces NASA hosted Tuesday, Nov. 22, with NASA Flight Director Gerry Griffin, Jim Geffre from Orion, Nijoud Merancy with the Artemis program and Jennifer Ross-Nazzal with the NASA history office to discuss the milestone. 

Learn more about Orion’s systems that were designed for deep space missions with astronauts. 

Artemis I – Flight Day Six: Orion Performs Lunar Flyby, Closest Outbound Approach

Flight Day 6: A Selfie with the Moon
(Nov. 21, 2022) A portion of the far side of the Moon looms large just beyond the Orion spacecraft in this image taken on the sixth day of the Artemis I mission by a camera on the tip of one of Orion’s solar arrays. The spacecraft entered the lunar sphere of influence Sunday, Nov. 20, making the Moon, instead of Earth, the main gravitational force acting on the spacecraft. On Monday, Nov. 21, it came within 80 miles of the lunar surface, the closest approach of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, before moving into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. The darkest spot visible near the middle of the image is Mare Orientale.

On its sixth day into the Artemis I mission, Orion successfully completed its fourth orbital trajectory correction burn using the auxiliary engines at 1:44 a.m. CST ahead the first of two maneuvers required to enter a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. The first three trajectory correction burns provided an opportunity to fire all three thruster types on Orion with the first using the large orbital maneuvering system engine, the second using the small reaction control system thrusters, and the third using the medium-sized auxiliary engines. 

Orion completed the outbound powered flyby at 6:44 a.m., passing about 81 miles above the surface at 6:57 a.m. The spacecraft speed increased from 2,128 mph before the burn to 5,102 mph after the burn. Shortly after the outbound flyby burn, the space craft passed about 1,400 miles above the Apollo 11 landing site at Tranquility Base at 7:37 a.m. Orion later flew over the Apollo 14 site at about 6,000 miles in altitude and then over the Apollo 12 site at an altitude of about 7,700 miles 

“The mission continues to proceed as we had planned, and the ground systems, our operations teams, and the Orion spacecraft continue to exceed expectations, and we continue to learn along the way about this new, deep-space spacecraft,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, in a Nov. 21 briefing at Johnson Space Center. 

(Nov. 21, 2022) – The Earth is seen setting from the far side of the Moon just beyond the Orion spacecraft in this video taken on the sixth day of the Artemis I mission by a camera on the tip of one of Orion’s solar arrays. The spacecraft was preparing for the Outbound Powered Flyby maneuver which would bring it within 80 miles of the lunar surface, the closest approach of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, before moving into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft entered the lunar sphere of influence Sunday, Nov. 20, making the Moon, instead of Earth, the main gravitational force acting on the spacecraft.

Orion will enter distant retrograde orbit beyond the Moon on Friday, Nov. 25 with the second maneuver, called the distant retrograde orbit insertion burn. The orbit is “distant” in the sense that it’s at a high altitude from the surface of the Moon, and it’s “retrograde” because Orion will travel around the Moon opposite the direction the Moon travels around Earth. This orbit provides a highly stable orbit where little fuel is required to stay for an extended trip in deep space to put Orion’s systems to the test in an extreme environment far from Earth.  

Orion will travel about 57,287 miles beyond the Moon at its farthest point from the Moon on Nov. 25, pass the record set by Apollo 13 for the farthest distance traveled by a spacecraft designed for humans at 248,655 miles from Earth on Saturday, Nov. 26, and reach its maximum distance from Earth of 268,552 miles Monday, Nov. 28.  

As of Monday, Nov. 21, a total of about 3,700 pounds of propellant has been used, about 75 pounds less than prelaunch expected values. There is more than 2,000 pounds of margin available over what is planned for use during the mission, an increase of about 200 pounds from prelaunch expected values. 

Just after 2:45 p.m. CST on Nov. 21, Orion had traveled 216,842 miles from Earth and was 13,444 miles from the Moon, cruising at 3,489 miles per hour.   

Follow along and track Orion via the Artemis Real-Time Orbit Website, or AROW, and watch live footage from the spacecraft. You can find the latest images from Orion on the Johnson Space Center Flickr account.

Orion Successfully Completes Lunar Flyby, Re-acquires Signal with Earth

Artemis I Earthrise

Orion re-acquired signal with NASA’s Deep Space Network, at 7:59 a.m. EST after successfully performing the outbound powered flyby burn at 7:44 a.m. EST with a firing of the orbital maneuvering system engine for 2 minutes and 30 seconds to accelerate the spacecraft at a rate of more than 580 mph. At the time of the burn, Orion was 328 miles above the Moon, travelling at 5,023 mph. Shortly after the burn, Orion passed 81 miles above the Moon, travelling at 5,102 mph. At the time of the lunar flyby, Orion was more than 230,000 miles from Earth.  

The outbound powered flyby burn is the first of two maneuvers required to enter the distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will perform the distant retrograde orbit insertion burn Friday, Nov. 25, using the European Service Module. Orion will remain in this orbit for about a week to test spacecraft systems. The distant retrograde will take Orion 40,000 miles past the Moon before it returns to Earth. Orion’s greatest distance from the Earth will be Monday, Nov. 28 at 3:05 p.m. CST at more than 268,500 miles. Orion’s greatest distance from the Moon will be on Friday, Nov. 25 at 3:53 p.m. CST at more than 57,250 miles. 

The Deep Space Network, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, handles communications for Artemis I beyond low-Earth orbit. This includes the mission’s trajectory corrections, powered flyby burns, and insertion into and departure from distant retrograde orbit, while the Near Space Network provides supplemental navigation data with assistance from the Near Space Network’s tracking and data relay satellite constellation. 

The Deep Space Network consists of three facilities spaced equidistant from each other – approximately 120 degrees apart in longitude – around the world. These sites are at Goldstone, near Barstow, California; near Madrid, Spain; and near Canberra, Australia. The strategic placement of these sites permits constant communication with spacecraft as our planet rotates – before a distant spacecraft sinks below the horizon at one site, another site can pick up the signal and carry on communicating. Orion initially regained signal with the Madrid ground station after the lunar flyby and then transitioned signal to the Goldstone station. 

NASA will host a news conference on NASA T V at 5 p.m. EST to discuss Orion’s outbound powered flyby burn and provide an update on post-launch assessments of the Space Launch System rocket and Exploration Ground Systems.  

Participants will include: 

  • Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager  
  • Judd Frieling, NASA flight director  
  • Howard Hu, Orion Program manager 

NASA TV coverage of the distant retrograde orbit insertion burn will begin at 4:30 p.m. EST Friday, with the burn scheduled to occur at 4:52 p.m. 

Learn more about distant retrograde orbit and NASA’s communication and navigation networks. See which antennas are communicating with Orion in real-time on Deep Space Network Now and track Orion via the Artemis Real-Time Orbit Website, or AROW.