NASA’s Mega Moon Rocket Begins Roll to Launch Pad 

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.  

CAPSTONE Completes Successful Maneuver, Teeing Up Moon Orbit

The CAPSTONE spacecraft successfully completed a trajectory correction maneuver on Thursday, Oct. 27, teeing up the spacecraft’s arrival to lunar orbit on Nov. 13.

CAPSTONE is no longer in safe mode following an issue in early September that caused the spacecraft to spin. The team identified the most likely cause as a valve-related issue in one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters. The mission team will design future maneuvers to work around the affected valve, including the two remaining trajectory correction maneuvers scheduled before CAPSTONE’s arrival to orbit at the Moon.

CAPSTONE – short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment – is owned by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA. The spacecraft was designed and built by Terran Orbital. Operations are performed jointly by teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.

Teams On Track for Artemis I Rollout to Launch Pad

Teams are on track to roll the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Pad 39B no earlier than Friday, Nov. 4 with first motion targeted for 12:01 a.m. EDT.

Minor repairs identified through detailed inspections are mostly completed. Preparations are underway to ready the mobile launcher and VAB for rollout by configuring the mobile launcher arms and umbilicals and continuing to retract the access platforms surrounding SLS and Orion as work is completed.

Testing of the reaction control system on the twin solid rocket booters, as well as the installation of the flight batteries, is complete and those components are ready for flight. Engineers also have replaced the batteries on the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), which was powered up for a series of tests to ensure the stage is functioning properly. Teams successfully completed final confidence checks for the ICPS, launch vehicle stage adapter and the core stage forward skirt.

Teams are continuing to work in the intertank area of the core stage and upper section of the boosters to replace batteries. These areas will remain open to support remaining battery and flight termination system activities. Flight termination system testing will start next week on the intertank and booster and once complete, those elements will be ready for launch. Charging of the secondary payloads in the Orion stage adapter is complete.

Teams recharged, replaced and reinstalled several of the radiation instruments and the crew seat accelerometer inside Orion ahead of the crew module closure for roll. Technicians will refresh the specimens for the space biology payload at the launch pad. The crew module and launch abort system hatches are closed for the roll to the pad, and engineers will perform final closeouts at the pad prior to launch.

Teams will plan to move the crawler transporter into position outside of the VAB ahead of rolling into the facility early next week. The agency continues to target a launch date no earlier than Nov. 14 at 12:07 a.m. EDT.

 

NASA Sets Date for Next Launch Attempt for Artemis I Moon Mission 

NASA is targeting the next launch attempt of the Artemis I mission for Monday, Nov. 14 with liftoff of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft planned during a 69-minute launch window that opens at 12:07 a.m. EST. Artemis I is an uncrewed flight test to launch SLS and send Orion around the Moon and back to Earth to thoroughly test its system before flights with astronauts. 

Inspections and analyses over the previous week have confirmed minimal work is required to prepare the rocket and spacecraft to roll out to Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida following the roll-back due to Hurricane Ian.  Teams will perform standard maintenance to repair minor damage to the foam and cork on the thermal protection system and recharge or replace batteries on the rocket, several secondary payloads, and the flight termination system. The agency plans to roll the rocket back to the launch pad as early as Friday, Nov. 4. 

NASA has requested back-up launch opportunities for Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 1:04 a.m. and Saturday, Nov. 19, at 1:45 a.m., which are both two-hour launch windows. A launch on Nov. 14 would result in a mission duration of about 25-and-a-half days with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean Friday, Dec. 9. 

CAPSTONE Team Stops Spacecraft Spin, Clearing Hurdle to Recovery

CAPSTONE team members successfully executed an operation to stop the spacecraft’s spin on Friday, Oct. 7, clearing a major hurdle in returning the spacecraft to normal operations.

Following a planned trajectory correction maneuver on Sept. 8, CAPSTONE suffered an issue that caused the spacecraft to spin beyond the capacity of the onboard reaction wheels to control and counter. Data from the spacecraft suggests the most likely cause was a valve-related issue in one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters. The partially open valve meant the thruster produced thrust whenever the propulsion system was pressurized. The mission team extensively reviewed telemetry and simulation data and conducted multiple tests on the spacecraft in order to formulate a plan to stop the spacecraft’s spin despite this issue.

Recovery commands were executed Friday morning. Initial telemetry from CAPSTONE and observation data points to a successful maneuver, indicating the spacecraft has stopped its spin and regained full 3-axis attitude control, meaning CAPSTONE’s position is controlled without unplanned rotation. CAPSTONE now has oriented its solar arrays to the Sun and adjusted the pointing of its antennas to provide a better data connection to Earth.

The risks of this anomaly and recovery process were significant, and the team worked extensively and collaboratively to mitigate these risks. Over the coming days, the team will monitor the spacecraft status and make any needed adjustments to procedures in order to account for and mitigate the effects of the partially open thruster valve. The mission team also will work to design possible fixes for this valve-related issue in order to reduce risk for future maneuvers. CAPSTONE remains on track to insert into its targeted near rectilinear halo orbit at the Moon on Nov. 13.

CAPSTONE – short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment – is owned by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA. The spacecraft was designed and built by Terran Orbital. Operations are performed jointly by teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.

Read the full update from Advanced Space. Additional updates will be provided, as available.

Inspections Underway for Rocket, Spacecraft Before Setting Launch Date

Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are in the process of preparing the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the next launch attempt in November for the Artemis I mission. Check-outs conducted this week will allow NASA to finalize the work schedule before rolling SLS and Orion back to Launch Pad 39B.

Since resuming work after Hurricane Ian, teams have extended work platforms around SLS and Orion to assess the exterior and access internal components. Exterior inspections will note any foam or cork from the thermal protection system on the rocket or spacecraft that might need to be repaired. Teams will replace the flight batteries for the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the boosters, as well as the batteries for the flight termination system in the boosters and core stage.

Work will also include charging the CubeSats that are equipped to be re-charged and have elected to do so. Inside Orion, work will include replenishing the specimens and batteries for the biology investigations riding within the capsule, as well as recharging the batteries associated with the crew seat accelerometers and space radiation experiments.

While teams inside the Vehicle Assemble Building complete check-outs, managers are coordinating with the U.S. Space Force to reserve launch dates on the Eastern Range and working with other parts of the agency to evaluate any potential constraints before NASA sets a target date for the next launch attempt.

Although the Kennedy area received minimal impacts from Hurricane Ian, many team members who live farther west experienced larger effects from the storm and are still recovering. Managers are working with teams to ensure they have the time and support needed to address the needs of their families and homes.

Teams Confirm No Damage to Flight Hardware, Focus on November for Launch

Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida conducted initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts from Hurricane Ian. There was no damage to Artemis flight hardware, and facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations. Next, engineers will extend access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to prepare for additional inspections and start preparation for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.

As teams complete post-storm recovery operations, NASA has determined it will focus Artemis I launch planning efforts on the launch period that opens Nov. 12 and closes Nov. 27. Over the coming days, managers will assess the scope of work to perform while in the VAB and identify a specific date for the next launch attempt. Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch.

CAPSTONE Team Continues Work Towards Spacecraft Recovery

The CAPSTONE mission team is continuing to work towards recovery of the spacecraft orientation control. This work includes collecting information from the spacecraft, running simulations, and refining recovery plans. CAPSTONE is power positive – meaning it is generating more power from its solar panels than the spacecraft systems are using – and remains in a stable condition on track to the Moon.

Teams Prepare for Hurricane Arrival, Assess Artemis I Forward Plan

With the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft safety in the Vehicle Assembly Building after rolling back from Launch Pad 39B Monday night, NASA continues to prioritize its employees as Hurricane Ian approaches the Kennedy Space Center area. 

As part of NASA’s hurricane preparedness protocol, a “ride out” team will remain in a safe location at Kennedy throughout the storm to monitor centerwide conditions. After the storm passes, they will conduct an assessment of facilities, property, and equipment. Once it is safe for additional employees to return to Kennedy, engineers will extend platforms to establish access to the rocket and spacecraft.  

Managers will review options on the extent of work that will be conducted in the VAB before returning to the launch pad or identifying the next opportunity for launch. Technicians will swap out batteries on the rocket’s flight termination system and retest the system prior to the next launch attempt. 

Assessment Underway on Electrical System in Vehicle Assembly Building

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.