Artemis Plan to Land First Woman, Next Man on Moon in 2024

Following a series of critical contract awards and hardware milestones, an update on NASA’s Artemis program is now available, including the latest Phase 1 plans to land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon in 2024.

In the 18 months since NASA accepted a bold challenge to accelerate its exploration plans by more than four years and establish sustainable exploration by the end of the decade, the agency has continued to gain momentum toward sending humans to the Moon again for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972.

The document captures Artemis progress to date, identifying the key science, technology and human missions as well as the commercial and international partnerships that will ensure we continue to lead in exploration and achieve our ambitious goal to land astronauts on the Moon.

>>Download and read the Artemis Plan

Artemis I Preparations Stack Up

Technicians with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems rehearse booster stacking operations inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, Sept.14, in preparation for the Artemis I launch. The team is using full-scale replicas of booster segments, referred to as pathfinders, for the practice exercise in one of the tallest sections, or high bays, of the VAB built for stacking rockets. As part of the rehearsal, a pathfinder for an aft segment, the very bottom of the stack, was prepared in High Bay 4. Then, a team of crane operators moved the segment into High Bay 3, where it was placed on the mobile launcher. Careful measurements were taken before the team added a center segment to the stack.

The actual Space Launch System (SLS) booster segments will be stacked on the mobile launcher later this year, following completion of Green Run testing of the rocket’s core stage – a series of eight tests taking place at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

NASA Completes Fifth Green Run Test for First Artemis Moon Rocket

Engineers have completed the fifth of eight Green Run tests on the core stage of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, continuing progress toward a hot fire test this fall. Operators evaluated the stage’s thrust vector control system on the historic B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., on Sept. 13. The test provided critical verification of the control system and its related hydraulics as operators moved the stage’s four RS-25 engines as they must move during flight to steer the rocket and maintain a proper trajectory. The stage now is set for two more tests – a simulated countdown demonstration and wet dress rehearsal – directly leading to the hot fire of all four RS-25 engines, as during an actual flight.

In the countdown demonstration, engineers will simulate the launch countdown and procedures to validate the established timeline and sequence of events. In the wet dress rehearsal, engineers will conduct another countdown exercise and actually load, control and drain more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic propellants to ensure all is set for the final test of the Green Run series. The concluding test will activate all stage systems and fire the four RS-25 engines to generate the same combined 1.6 million pounds of thrust that will help launch the SLS rocket when it flies on the Artemis I mission.

SLS Booster Test Update: Successful Test Completed!

Teams from NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and prime contractor Northrop Grumman successfully completed the Flight Support Booster-1 (FSB-1)  ground test at Northrop Grumman’s test facility in Promontory, Utah. Watch a replay of the test on NASA Television or NASA’s YouTube channel. Learn more about the test at https://www.nasa.gov/media/flight-support-booster-test.html

SLS Booster Test Update: Scheduled Hold of Countdown

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Flight Support Booster-1 (FSB-1) test is in a scheduled hold of the countdown. The hold allows time for remaining personnel to evacuate the test area to their designated locations. The test team will also check motor temperatures and confirm data acquisition systems are ready to record. The test fire is scheduled for 1:05 MDT 3:05 p.m. EDT.

SLS Booster Test Update: NASA TV Coverage Underway

Live coverage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Flight Support Booster-1 (FSB-1) ground test has begun on NASA Television and the agency’s website. The test fire is scheduled to begin at 3:05 EDT. Systems checks are underway for the full-scale, five-segment solid rocket booster ground test at Northrop Grumman’s test facility on Promontory, Utah. This is the first in a series of tests that are examining motor performance for potential new materials and processes that may be incorporated in the booster after the Artemis III lunar mission.

Space Launch System Booster Test for Artemis Missions

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) will conduct a test of Flight Support Booster-1 (FSB-1) Sept. 2, 2020 at Northrop Grumman’s test facility in Promontory, Utah. Northrop Grumman manufactures the two five-segment solid rocket boosters that will provide more than 75 percent of the vehicle’s thrust for the first two minutes of ascent. Live coverage of the test will begin at 2:45 p.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

FSB-1 is a full-scale, five-segment solid rocket booster ground test that supports flights of NASA’s Space Launch System. This is the same model booster that will power the SLS rocket and Orion capsule on the Artemis I mission. The test is scheduled for 1:05 MDT,  3:05 p.m. EDT and has a planned duration of a little over 2 minutes, the same amount of time that the boosters power the rocket during liftoff and flight. The objective of the test is to confirm motor performance and manufacturing quality for potential new materials and processes that will be used in boosters supporting future Artemis missions.

More details about the FSB-1 test and SLS solid rocket boosters:

Eyes Forward as Artemis Missions Set to Begin Next Year

Jumping headfirst into the Artemis program has been one of the highlights in my transition as the associate administrator for human spaceflight. With an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there was little time for a transition period as mission essential work needed to continue as safely as possible.

Already within my short time on the job, NASA is checking-off key milestones and marching swiftly toward Artemis I. That mission, the first uncrewed flight test of our powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, is just a little more than a year away from launch.

I remain incredibly impressed by our team’s commitment to landing the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024, and we all know that Artemis I is a critical step toward realizing that goal. A lot of the hard work is behind us, but it is not done yet. We’re gaining momentum– and it is tangible across the agency.

Already this year, NASA has finished modifications and upgrades to ready Launch Pad 39B at our Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the mission. Teams there have also:

  • Simulated portions of the launch countdown with a realistic run-through of the terminal count
  • Delivered the launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the core stage and the upper stage of the rocket
  • Conducted an Orion recovery test in the Pacific Ocean, validating timelines for recovery operations
  • Practiced stacking operations with pathfinder segments for the solid rocket boosters
  • Received booster segments for the mission to begin processing for launch

The agency also completed a rigorous test campaign ahead of schedule on the Orion spacecraft, subjecting it to the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic conditions expected during flight. Orion is now in final assembly and checkout for launch, including installation of the spacecraft’s four solar arrays.

On the SLS side of the house, NASA completed structural testing on the upper part of the rocket and four core stages structures. The rocket’s core stage for the first mission is the last piece of hardware that remains to be delivered to Kennedy. It is currently secured in a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and has completed four of the eight tests in the Green Run test series.

We are currently working our way through the fifth test to check out the thrust vector controls and related hydraulics. While we keep an eye on hurricane season, we continue to strive to conduct the final test by the end of October with the current pace of testing. During that test, engineers will fire all four RS-25 engines simultaneously, aiming to drain the fueled tanks in eight minutes, just as during flight. After the hot fire test, crews will refurbish, inspect, and configure the stage for shipment to Kennedy. The next time the rocket’s engines ignite, Artemis I will be taking flight.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA also completed a detailed cost and schedule assessment for Artemis I and established a new agency commitment for launch readiness by November 2021. While it is too early to predict the full impact of COVID-19, we are confident a November 2021 date is achievable with the recent pace of progress, and a successful Green Run hot fire test will enable us to better predict a target launch date for the mission.

Taking this new launch readiness date into account, NASA also aligned the development costs for the SLS and Exploration Ground Systems programs through Artemis I and established new cost commitments. The new development baseline cost for SLS is $9.1 billion, and the commitment for the initial ground systems capability to support the mission is now $2.4 billion. NASA’s cost and schedule commitment for Orion currently remains within original targets and is tied to demonstrating the capability to fly crew on the Artemis II mission by 2023.

NASA has notified Congress of these new commitments, and we are working at the best possible pace toward launch, including streamlining operational flow at Kennedy and assessing opportunities to further improve the efficiency of our integration activities. Now that the majority of the design development is done, as well as the first time build and an extensive test program, a lot of effort is behind us. We are well into builds for future missions, and we are seeing significantly improved build rates, high quality work, and efficiencies across the board. Moving forward, we aim to continue to reduce production costs for the world’s most capable launch system, as we take on new challenges of our lunar exploration program.

We remain focused on the work ahead under the Artemis program, for the first SLS and Orion mission as well as future missions with crew, including Artemis III that will send the next astronauts to the surface of the Moon. With those kind of goals, there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be working. And yet, Artemis plans are just one of many great things underway within human spaceflight and across the agency – with much more ahead.

NASA is on track to achieve great things with robots, technology and humans on and around the Moon. From the Moon, and soon to Mars, I hope you’re ready to jump in too.

-Kathy Lueders

First Piece of Artemis III Orion Delivered to NASA

Artemis III cone panel arrives at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility. 

The first piece of the Orion spacecraft’s pressure vessel for Artemis III – the mission that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 – has arrived at NASA. The cone panel that will house the windows astronauts will use to view the Moon was designed by Orion’s lead contractor, Lockheed Martin, and manufactured by AMRO Fabricating Corp., of South El Monte, California. It arrived at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on Aug. 21. In the coming months, the other six elements of the pressure vessel will arrive at Michoud where they will be welded together to build the underlying structure of Orion. The pressure vessel is Orion’s primary structure that holds the pressurized atmosphere astronauts will breathe and work in while in the vacuum of deep space. Orion, the Space Launch System, and Exploration Ground Systems programs are foundational elements of the Artemis program, beginning with Artemis I, the first integrated flight test of Orion and SLS next year. Artemis II will follow as the first crewed mission, taking humans farther into space than ever before.