Artemis I WDR Update: Countdown Progresses Overnight, Teams Remain On Track for Monday Tanking Operations

The launch team is making its way through countdown operations and wet dress rehearsal activities remain on track. The mission management team will meet this afternoon to review the status of operations.

 

Overnight, engineers powered up the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System’s core stage. Teams also configured several systems on the ground, rocket, and spacecraft and performed activities to prepare umbilicals that connect the rocket and spacecraft to the mobile launcher and are used to provide power, communications, coolant, and propellant.

 

NASA is streaming live video of the rocket and spacecraft at Launch Pad 39B and will provide live commentary on the agency’s website beginning with tanking operations on June 20.

Artemis I WDR Update: Countdown is Underway for Wet Dress Rehearsal

At approximately 5 p.m. EDT today, the launch team arrived at their stations inside the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin the wet dress rehearsal test for NASA’s Artemis I mission. The countdown began 30 minutes later at 5:30 p.m. or L-45 hours, 10 minutes before the initial target T-0 of 2:40 p.m. on Monday, June 20.

Overnight, teams will power up the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System core stage and prepare the rocket’s four RS-25 engines, which will not be lit during the test.

Weather constraints for propellant loading operations planned for Monday stipulate there must be less than a 20% chance lightning within 5 nautical miles of pad during the first hour of tanking. Winds also must not be above 37.5 knots and the temperature cannot be below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

NASA is streaming live video of the rocket and spacecraft at Launch Pad 39B and will provide live commentary on the agency’s website beginning with tanking operations on June 20. Activity at the launch pad will likely not be visible during the majority of the countdown, but some venting may be seen during propellant loading.

Teams on Track for Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal Test

NASA is on track to begin the approximately two-day wet dress rehearsal for the agency’s Artemis I mission. The test will begin at approximately 5 p.m. EDT June 18 with “call to stations,” when the launch team arrives at their consoles inside the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rehearsal will run the Artemis I launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock, and also drain the tanks to give them an opportunity to practice the timelines and procedures they will use for launch.

Approximate times for milestones during the test are below. During the test, the timing for some events on account of several planned operational demonstrations tied to specific capabilities and test objectives may differ from the day of launch countdown. These demonstrations include tests on the cryogenic systems and an approximately three-minute hold inside the terminal count, which would not normally occur on launch day. If needed, the test team may also hold as necessary to verify conditions before resuming the countdown, or use the test window or extend beyond it, if consumables and resources allow them to complete test objectives.

Prior to Call to Stations

  • The Orion crew module hatch is closed (will occur at ~L-37.5 hours for launch)
  • The crew access arm is retracted (will occur at ~L-30 hours for launch)
  • Leak checks are completed on the Orion spacecraft and the launch abort system is closed (will occur at ~L-29 hours, 30 minutes for launch)

5 p.m. EDT, June 18 – L-45 hours, 40 minutes and counting 

  • The launch team arrives on their stations and the countdown begins (L-45, 40 minutes hours)
  • Fill the water tank for the sound suppression system (L-45 hours)
  • Orion spacecraft power up start (L-41 hours)
  • SLS core stage is powered up (L-35 hours, 20 minutes)
  • Final preparations of the four RS-25 engines complete (L-30 hours, 30 minutes)
    • Engines will not fire during this test

1:40 a.m., June 20 – L-13 hours and counting 

  • The SLS interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) is powered up (L-12 hours, 50 minutes)
  • All non-essential personnel leave Launch Complex 39B (L-12 hours)

6 a.m. – L-8 hours, 40 minutes and counting

  • Built in countdown hold begins and lasts approximately 1.5 hours (L-8 hours, 40 minutes)
  • The launch director and mission management team chair conduct a weather and tanking briefing (L-8 hours, 20 minutes)
  • The launch director and mission management team chair decide if they are “go” or “no-go” to begin tanking the rocket (L-7 hours, 50 minutes)

6:40 a.m. – L-8 hours and counting

  • 7:35 a.m.: Core stage liquid oxygen (LOX) chilldown start (L-7 hours, 05 minutes)
  • 8:15 a.m.: Core stage LOX slow fill start (L-6 hours, 25 minutes)
  • 8:30 a.m.: Core stage LOX fast fill start (L-6 hours, 10 minutes)
  • 8:35 a.m.: Core stage liquid hydrogen (LH2) chilldown start (L-6 hours, 5 minutes)
  • 8:40 a.m.: Core stage LH2 slow fill start (L-6 hours)
  • 9:00 a.m.: Core stage LH2 fast fill start (L-5 hours, 40 minutes)

10:10 a.m. – L-4 hours, 30 minutes and counting 

  • 10:10 a.m.: Core stage LH2 topping start (L-4 hours, 30 minutes)
  • 10:15 a.m.: ICPS LH2 chilldown (L-4 hours, 25 minutes)
  • 10:15 a.m.: Core stage LH2 replenish start (L-4 hours 25 minutes)
  • 10:20 a.m.: Orion communications system activation start (L-4 hours, 20 minutes)
  • 10:40 a.m.: ICPS LH2 fast fill (L-4 hours)

11:10 a.m. – L-3 hours, 30 minutes and counting 

  • 11:15 a.m.: Core stage LOX topping start (L-3 hours, 25 minutes)
  • 11:20 a.m.: Core stage LOX replenish start (L-3 hours, 20 minutes)
  • 11:20 a.m.: ICPS LOX chilldown start (L-3 hours, 20 minutes)
  • 11:25 a.m.: ICPS LH2 validation and leak test start (L-3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • 11:30 a.m.: ICPS LOX fast fill start (L-3 hours, 10 minutes)
  • 11:40 a.m.: ICPS LH2 tanks load topping start (L-3 hours)
  • 11:40 a.m.: ICPS/SLS telemetry data verified with Mission Control Center and SLS Engineering Support Center (L-3 hours)
  • 12 p.m.: ICPS LH2 replenish start (L-2 hours, 40 minutes)
  • 12 p.m.: ICPS LOX validation and leak test (L-2 hours, 40 minutes)
  • 12:20 p.m.: ICPS LOX topping start (L-2 hours, 20 minutes)
  • 12:30 p.m.: ICPS LOX replenish start (L-2 hours, 10 minutes)
  • 12:40 p.m.: WDR-specific core stage LOX/LH2 stop flow and recover test (L-2 hours through L-55 minutes)

2 p.m. – L-40 minutes and holding 

  • 2 p.m.: Final NASA test director briefing begins
  • 2 p.m.: Built in 30-minute countdown hold begins
  • 2:25 p.m.: The launch director polls the team to ensure they are “go” for terminal count for test purposes

2:30 p.m. – T-10 minutes and counting (WDR Run 1) 

    • 2:34 p.m.
      • Orion ascent pyros are armed (T-6 minutes)
      • Orion set to internal power (T-6 minutes)
      • Core stage LH2 terminate replenish (T-5 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • 2:36 p.m.
      • Core stage auxiliary power unit starts (T-4 minutes)
      • Core stage LOX terminate replenish (T-4 minutes)
      • ICPS LOX terminate replenish (T-3 minutes, 30 seconds)
    • 2:38 p.m.
      • ICPS switches to internal battery power (T-1 minute, 56 seconds)
      • Core stage switches to internal power (T-1 minute, 30 seconds)
      • 3 minute launch ready hold (T-1 minute, 30 seconds)
        • Wet dress rehearsal only
      • ICPS enters terminal countdown mode (T-1 minute, 20 seconds)
    • 2:41 p.m.
      • ICPS LH2 terminate replenish (T-50 seconds)
      • Ground launch sequencer sends “cut-off” command (T-33 seconds)

Perform Critical Safing and Planned Recycle back to T-10 minutes and holding (takes approximately one hour)

T-10 minutes and counting  (WDR Run 2) 

  • Orion ascent pyrotechnics are armed (T-6 minutes)
  • Orion set to internal power (T-6 minutes)
  • Core stage LH2 terminate replenish (T-5 minutes, 57 seconds)
  • Core stage auxiliary power unit starts (T-4 minutes)
  • Core stage LOX terminate replenish (T-4 minutes)
  • ICPS LOX terminate replenish (T-3 minutes, 30 seconds)
  • ICPS switches to internal battery power (T-1 minute, 56 seconds)
  • Core stage switches to internal power (T-1 minute, 30 seconds)
  • ICPS enters terminal countdown mode (T-1 minute, 20 seconds)
  • ICPS LH2 terminate replenish (T-50 seconds)
  • Ground launch sequencer sends “Go for automated launch sequencer” command (T-33 seconds)
  • Core stage flight computer to automated launching sequencer (T-30 seconds)
  • Ground launch sequencer manual cut-off at T-9.34 seconds

Teams will then proceed conducting critical safing and core and upper stage cryogenic fuel drain operations.

NASA is streaming live video of the rocket and spacecraft at Launch Pad 39B and will provide live commentary on the agency’s website beginning with tanking operations on June 20. Activity at the launch pad will likely not be visible during the majority of the countdown, but some venting may be seen during propellant loading.

CAPSTONE Spacecraft Launch Targeted No Earlier Than June 25

NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space are currently targeting no earlier than June 25, 2022, for the launch of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 (LC-1) on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand. Learn more about this ambitious mission flying a new path to the Moon.

Teams Advance Preparations for Crewed Artemis Missions

While teams continue to prepare for the next wet dress rehearsal attempt ahead of Artemis I, engineers and technicians are making headway preparing for future Artemis missions with astronauts.

The Orion spacecraft for Artemis II, the first crewed Artemis mission, was powered on for the first time by technicians in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where teams have been meticulously outfitting the crew module with its environmental control and life support (ECLS) systems and subsystems. Powering on Orion allows teams to begin verifying power and data can be routed to every aspect of the capsule. The Artemis II European-built service module also is nearing integration with the crew module at Kennedy – technicians recently conducted proof pressure and leak testing of propulsion and ECLS system connections between the module and the crew module adapter, and engineers are conducting thermal and electrical closeout activities for several systems.

At NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, teams have assembled most of the Space Launch System’s (SLS) core stage for Artemis II and moved the final piece of the stage in position to complete the stage later this year. The engine section is one of the most complex parts of the core stage and contains the main propulsion systems that connect the stage to the four RS-25 engines. The engines have been assembled and are ready for integration with the rest of the stage, while the 10 Artemis II solid rocket booster motor segments are stored and ready to be shipped to Kennedy where the rest of the booster assembly is underway. The interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) has already been delivered to Florida and is finishing final processing.

Teams also are preparing for Earth-bound aspects of future crewed missions. Canoo Technologies, Inc., which will provide three environmentally friendly vehicles to transport crews along the nine-mile trip by road to launch pad 39B for their missions, recently visited Kennedy to kick off site-related planning activities. NASA awarded the company a contract earlier this year to supply the vehicles that will be used on launch day for crewed missions to the Moon in time for Artemis II.

As Artemis II progress continues, preparations for Artemis III also are well underway. NASA’s lead SLS booster contractor Northrop Grumman recently completed the 10 motor segments of the twin boosters for the mission, which will see astronauts land on the surface of the Moon. The segments will be kept in storage at Northrop’s Utah facility until needed at Kennedy for rocket stacking and assembly operations. At Michoud, teams also are building core stages for Artemis III and Artemis IV. The Artemis III ICPS construction is well underway, and other rocket stage adapters for both Artemis II and Artemis III are in the final stages of production at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

Proof testing to ensure the Artemis III Orion crew module pressure vessel is sealed tightly was successfully completed at Kennedy, and ESA (European Space Agency) and its contractor Airbus are preparing the Artemis III service module for shipment next summer to Kennedy from Bremen, Germany, where it is being manufactured.

CAPSTONE Mission Launch No Longer Targeting June 13

NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space are no longer targeting June 13 for the launch of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, mission to the Moon. Flight software is being updated. A revised schedule will be provided as soon as possible.

Since arriving in New Zealand, CAPSTONE was successfully fueled and integrated with the Lunar Photon upper stage by teams from Rocket Lab, Terran Orbital, and Stellar Exploration. CAPSTONE and Photon have been encapsulated in the payload fairing.

NASA’s Artemis I Moon Rocket Departs Vehicle Assembly Building for Next Tanking Test

At approximately 12:10 a.m. EDT on June 6, NASA’s Artemis I Moon rocket began its journey from Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Poised atop its crawler transporter, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft will make the 4-mile journey to launch pad 39B to undergo the next wet dress rehearsal test attempt. 

 Live stream views of the departure from VAB and the arrival at the pad will be available on the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube channel. 

Artemis I Rocket Readied for Return to Launch Pad for Tanking Test

With all of the work platforms retracted, NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft atop the mobile launcher are in view in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3, 2022. The crawler-transporter, driven by engineers, will carry the Artemis I stack and the mobile launcher to Launch Complex 39B for a wet dress rehearsal test ahead of the Artemis I launch. Photographer: NASA/Glenn Benson
Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center are conducting final preparations for next week’s roll out of the Space Launch System (SLS) Moon rocket and Orion spacecraft. Currently scheduled for Monday, June 6, the rocket will depart the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and head to Launch Pad 39B for the Artemis I wet dress rehearsal.

Teams successfully completed all major planned objectives identified during the previous wet dress rehearsal attempts, as well as some forward work previously planned for after the tanking test. The removal of the final set of platforms is complete and the crawler transporter sits underneath the massive rocket, spacecraft and mobile launcher.

First motion is scheduled for 12:01 a.m. EDT on June 6, and the launch team will closely monitor weather conditions and use the best window to complete the journey. The four-mile trek will take approximately 8-12 hours to arrive at the launch pad, after which the crawler transporter will make its way back down the pad surface and rest outside the pad gate.

Engineers will then connect the rocket and spacecraft to the ground systems and conduct check-outs in preparation for the tanking test, planned for approximately two weeks after the rocket arrives back at the pad. NASA will provide a live stream at 5 p.m. EDT, Friday, June 3 with an exterior view of the VAB ahead of the rollout of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as well as the arrival at launchpad 39B  on the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube Channel.

Gateway’s Propulsion System Testing Throttles Up

Image Caption: In April, PPE engineers successfully tested the integration of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s thruster with Maxar’s power procession unit and Xenon Flow Controller. Credit: NASA.
Image Caption: In April, PPE engineers successfully tested the integration of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s thruster with Maxar’s power procession unit and Xenon Flow Controller. Credit: NASA.

The powerhouse of Gateway, NASA’s orbiting outpost around the Moon and a critical piece of infrastructure for Artemis, is in the midst of several electric propulsion system tests.

The Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), being manufactured by Maxar Technologies, provides Gateway with power, high-rate communications, and propulsion for maneuvers around the Moon and to transit between different orbits. The PPE will be combined with the Habitation and Logistic Outpost (HALO) before the integrated spacecraft’s launch, targeted for late 2024 aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Together, these elements will serve as the hub for early Gateway crewed operations and various science and technology demonstrations as the full Gateway station is assembled around it in the coming years.

The PPE engineering team is conducting an extensive electric propulsion system test campaign to better understand Gateway’s performance during various mission scenarios. The test allows engineers and mission planners to adjust the system to ensure it meets the requirements for exploration of the Moon during Artemis missions.

Solar electric propulsion is ideal for Gateway because these systems harness the energy of the Sun, convert it to power, and then use that power to produce long-duration, highly efficient thrust, providing mission flexibility and reduced costs. The PPE will use both a 6-kilowatt (kW) and a 12-kW electric propulsion system. Each system contains various components that help the spacecraft thrust efficiently: thruster(s), power processing units (PPU), flow controllers that regulate the flow of gases, like xenon, used for propulsion, etc. Multiple companies, including prime contractor Maxar as well as Aerojet Rocketdyne and Busek, Co. are supplying electric propulsion technologies for PPE.

The developmental versions of the spacecraft’s thrusters and electric propulsion systems are being tested at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. These efforts include the first end-to-end test of the 6-kW system to validate changes and technical interactions between Maxar’s flight-like PPU and Busek’s 6-kW test thruster, as well as validation of Maxar’s larger 12-kW PPU with a prototype 12-kW thruster. The team has also conducted end-to-end tests using Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS)12-kW test thruster. The first phase of testing ended in mid-April and successfully demonstrated operations with Aerojet Rocketdyne’s thruster and Maxar’s PPU and Xenon Flow Controller. NASA plans to continue testing PPE’s propulsion system to reduce spacecraft integration and operational risks.

During the tests, each system proved capable of performing across the full mission power range and parameters. Additionally, during the tests, the engineering team completed various start up and shut down sequences and thruster throttling to simulate operations around the Moon. These tests for both electric propulsion systems were important for finalizing design, requirements, and capabilities.

The milestone propulsion system tests represent progression through the initial development stage, leading to critical design review, and additional spacecraft ground testing later this year. That ground testing will be followed by spacecraft delivery, and eventual integration with HALO prior to launch.

Reliable operation of what will be the highest-power electric propulsion system ever flown is critical for the integrated spacecraft to complete its transit from Earth orbit to lunar orbit. It is vital for Gateway’s operations as a home away from home for astronauts and a lunar microgravity lab supporting Artemis and future missions.

CAPSTONE Spacecraft Launch Targeted No Earlier Than June 13

NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space are currently targeting no earlier than June 13, 2022, for the launch of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 (LC-1) on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand. This launch date will support readiness checks for final launch and the Photon satellite bus. Learn more about this ambitious mission flying a new path to the Moon.