On Oct. 19, the Orion crew and service modules for the Artemis II mission were joined together inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
After successfully completing hardware installations and testing over the past several months, engineers connected the two major components of Orion that will fly NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, along with CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen on a mission around the Moon and bring them home safely.
Now that the crew and service modules are integrated, the team will power up the combined crew and service module for the first time. After power on tests are complete, Orion will begin altitude chamber testing, which will put the spacecraft through conditions as close as possible to the environment it will experience in the vacuum of deep space.
The Artemis II crew and teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program successfully completed the first in a series of integrated ground system tests at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for their mission around the Moon.
On Wednesday, NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, along with CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen, practiced the procedures they will undergo on launch day to prepare for their ride to space.
The crew awoke at their crew quarters inside Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkouts building before putting on test versions of the Orion crew survival system spacesuits they will wear on launch day. They then departed in NASA’s new Artemis crew transportation fleet to take them to Launch Pad 39B, traversing the nine-mile journey to the pad. Wiseman and Glover headed over in the first electric vehicle as Koch and Hansen followed them in the second.
Upon arrival at the pad, the crew headed onto the mobile launcher and proceeded up the tower to the white room inside the crew access arm. From this area, the astronauts will have access to enter and exit the Orion spacecraft – only for this test, there was no Orion or SLS (Space Launch System) rocket.
“When we walked out that crew access arm, I just had images of all those Apollo launches and shuttle launches that I saw as a kid and it was unreal,” Glover said. “I actually had to stop and just stay in the moment to really let it all sink in.”
Successful completion of this test ensures both the crew and the ground systems teams at Kennedy are prepared and understand the timeline of their events for launch day.
After an approximately four-mile journey over the course of two days, mobile launcher 1 arrived on Aug. 17 at Launch Pad 39B from its park site location at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will remain at the pad for several months as teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program prepare for Artemis ll, the first crewed mission under Artemis.
Mobile launcher 1 is on its way to Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for Artemis ll, the first crewed mission on the agency’s path to establishing a long-term presence at the Moon under Artemis. The ground structure began its trek from the west park site at approximately 8:27 a.m. EDT on Aug.16 atop the crawler-transporter 2. It will stop at the gate of pad 39B and resume its journey on Aug. 17.
At 380 feet tall above the ground, the mobile launcher is used to assemble, process, and launch NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket and Orion spacecraft. It contains all of the connection lines – known as umbilicals – and ground support equipment that will provide the rocket and spacecraft with the power, communications, fuel and coolant necessary for launch.
Once the mobile launcher is at the launch pad, teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program will conduct a series of tests and continue ground systems upgrades for both the mobile launcher 1 and the launch pad. These preparations will range from a launch day demonstration for the crew, closeout crew, and the pad rescue team to rehearse operations to testing the emergency egress system and the new liquid hydrogen sphere.
On Aug. 13, engineers and technicians inside the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida successfully completed a series of acoustic tests to ensure the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis II mission can withstand the speed and vibration it will experience during launch and throughout the 10-day mission around the Moon, the first Artemis mission with astronauts.
During the testing, engineers surrounded the crew module with large stacks of speakers, and attached microphones, accelerometers, and other equipment to measure the effects of different acoustic levels. Engineers and technicians will now analyze the data collected during the tests.
Prior to testing, the four Artemis II astronauts visited the high bay and viewed their ride to the Moon. With this test complete, technicians at Kennedy are on track to integrate Orion’s crew and service modules this fall.
The Artemis II crew – NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Hammock Koch, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen – visited Naval Base San Diego on July 19 ahead of the first Artemis II recovery test in the Pacific Ocean, Underway Recovery Test-10. The test will build on the success of Artemis I recovery and ensure NASA and the Department of Defense personnel can safely recover astronauts and their Orion spacecraft after their trip around the Moon on the first crewed Artemis mission.
The crew met with recovery team members from NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program and the Department of Defense to learn more about the recovery process for their mission, which includes being extracted from the spacecraft after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean and being lifted via helicopter to the recovery ship where they will undergo routine medical checks before returning to shore.
The visit included a walkdown of the ground equipment and facilities the team uses to practice recovery procedures along with a walkthrough of the recovery ship. The crew will participate in full recovery testing at sea next year.
On June 25, 2023, teams completed installation of the heat shield for the Artemis II Orion spacecraft inside the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The 16.5-foot-wide heat shield is one of the most important systems on the Orion spacecraft ensuring a safe return of the astronauts on board. As the spacecraft returns to Earth following its mission around the Moon, it will be traveling at speeds of about 25,000 mph and experience outside temperatures of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the spacecraft, however, astronauts will experience a much more comfortable temperature in the mid-70s thanks to Orion’s thermal protection system.
Up next, the spacecraft will be outfitted with some of its external panels ahead of acoustic testing later this summer. These tests will validate the crew module can withstand the vibrations it will experience throughout the Artemis II mission, during launch, flight, and landing.
Once acoustic testing is complete, technicians will attach the crew module to Orion’s service module, marking a major milestone for the Artemis II mission, the first mission with astronauts under Artemis that will test and check out all of Orion’s systems needed for future crewed missions.
The Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I flight test are rolling to launch pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of launch. At about 11:17 p.m. EDT the crawler-transporter began the approximately 4-mile journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad.
Once outside the VAB high-bay doors, the Moon rocket will make a planned pause allowing the team to reposition the crew access arm on the mobile launcher before continuing to the launch pad. The journey is expected to take between eight to 12 hours. NASA will provide an update once the rocket has arrived at the pad. A live stream view of the rocket and spacecraft departing VAB and arriving at the launch pad is available on the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube Channel.
Launch is currently targeted for Nov. 14 at the opening of a 69-minute launch window starting at 12:07 a.m. EST.
At approximately 11:45 a.m. today, a fire alarm was triggered in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The notification came when an arc flash event occurred at a connector on an electrical panel in High Bay 3. A spark landed on a rope marking the boundary of the work area. The rope began to smolder, workers pulled the alarm, and employees evacuated the building safely.
The incident occurred on the third floor of F-tower at the Mobile Launcher power connection. Technicians shut down power to the panel, and the center’s emergency responders declared the VAB safe for employees to return to work. There were no reported injuries, and the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft were not at risk.
The Artemis I vehicle and mobile launcher entered High Bay 3 earlier this morning after rolling back from Launch Complex 39B in advance of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to bring sustained tropical storm force winds to Kennedy as early as Wednesday evening. Engineers and technicians are evaluating the cause.
NASA is monitoring the forecast associated with the formation of a tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea while in parallel continuing to prepare for a potential launch opportunity on Tuesday, Sept. 27 during a 70-minute window that opens at 11:37 a.m. EDT.
Managers are initiating activities on a non-interference basis to enable an accelerated timeline for rolling back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to protect the rocket, should it be necessary. Discussions about whether to remain at the launch pad or roll back to the VAB are on-going and based on the latest forecast predictions. NASA will make a decision on whether to remain at the launch pad or roll back using incremental protocols to take interim steps necessary to protect people and hardware with a final decision anticipated no later than Saturday. The step-wise decision making process over the next day lets the agency protect its employees by completing a safe roll in time for them to address the needs of their families, while allowing flexibility to hold the launch window should weather predictions improve.
NASA is grateful to its agency partners at NOAA, United State Space Force and the National Hurricane Center for giving us the highest quality products to protect our nation’s flight test to return us to the Moon.