Artemis I: Final Stage of Moon Rocket Preparations Underway 

A view of Moonikin “Campos” secured in a seat inside the Artemis I Orion crew module atop the Space Launch System rocket in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 3, 2022.
A view of Moonikin “Campos” secured in a seat inside the Artemis I Orion crew module atop the Space Launch System rocket in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 3, 2022.

As NASA’s first launch attempt for Artemis I approaches, teams are ahead of schedule to complete final checks and closeouts of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA is targeting launch on Aug. 29 during a two-hour launch window that opens at 8:33 a.m. EDT, with backup opportunities on Sept. 2 and 5. A successful launch on Aug. 29 would result in a mission duration of approximately 42 days, with a targeted Orion splashdown on Oct. 10.  

Teams are retracting the VAB platforms that provide access to the rocket and spacecraft after engineers completed installing thermal blankets on the interim cryogenic propulsion stage around the launch vehicle stage adapter. Technicians also replaced the engine section flight doors of the rocket’s core stage. Final closeout inspections are complete on those sections  and they are ready for flight.   

On the 212-foot-tall core stage, teams started flight closeouts inspections. Coming up, engineers will test the flight termination system elements in the intertank of the core stage and the forward skirts of the solid rocket boosters before SLS rolls out to the pad for launch.  

Launch and flight controllers, along with support personnel across NASA centers, completed their final launch countdown simulation ahead of the mission. The team has conducted many launch and flight simulations to prepare for Artemis I. 

Technicians also finished replacing the inflatable seal that sits between the mobile launcher’s crew access arm and Orion’s launch abort system and crew module to prevent anything from the outside environment getting inside the capsule. Teams have extended the crew access arm and are conducting final powered testing and installing the “passengers” that are part of the MARE investigation before closing the hatch ahead of rolling out to the launch pad, currently scheduled for Aug. 18.  

NASA also held two briefings earlier this week, a mission overview briefing and a detailed flight briefing, in which key personnel provided updates and specifics about the flight test. 

 

NASA’s ShadowCam Launches Aboard Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter

NASA’s ShadowCam is heading to the Moon aboard Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)’s Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) mission. KPLO, also known as Danuri, launched at 7:08 p.m. EDT on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 40 on the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on August 4.

Developed by Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems, ShadowCam is one of five instruments on board KARI’s KPLO spacecraft.

A hypersensitive optical camera, ShadowCam, will collect images of permanently shadowed regions near the Moon’s poles. This will allow ShadowCam to map the reflectance of these regions to search for evidence of ice deposits, observe seasonal changes, and measure the terrain inside the craters. The ShadowCam instrument was designed based on previous imagers like those found on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, but it is several hundred times more light-sensitive to allow for capturing details within the permanently shadowed regions.

The data gathered from ShadowCam and the other KPLO instruments will support future lunar exploration efforts, including Artemis. The high-resolution imagery captured in extremely low-light conditions could help inform landing site selection and exploration planning for future Artemis missions by providing insight into terrain and lighting conditions, and the distribution and accessibility of resources like water ice that are useful for long-duration stays. The data from ShadowCam and the unprecedented views into the permanently shadowed regions could also help scientists learn more about how the Moon formed and evolved and about our solar system.

In addition to ShadowCam, NASA is also contributing communications and navigation support to KPLO and science support to the KPLO team via nine NASA-funded scientists. The Republic of Korea (ROK) signed the Artemis Accords last year and continues to collaborate with NASA on lunar exploration efforts.

In ROK, the orbiter is known as “Danuri” after a public naming contest resulted in a name combining the Korean words for “Moon” (dal) and “enjoy” (nuri).

Over the next 4.5 months, KPLO will use a fuel-saving Korean Ballistic Trajectory 62-mile (100 km) lunar polar orbit, where upon arrival, it will then begin operations on a planned 11-month mission.

Read more about ShadowCam and KPLO.

Final Work Continues to Ready Artemis I Moon Rocket for Launch 

With approximately one month until NASA’s first launch attempt for the Artemis I mission, teams move closer to finishing operations for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA is currently targeting launch for no earlier than Monday, Aug. 29, at 8:33 a.m. EDT during a 2 hour window. A successful launch on Aug. 29 would result in a mission duration of about 42 days, returning Monday, Oct. 10.  Engineers continue to progress through first time operations and are prepared learn and adapt along the way. Teams have planned accordingly with additional launch opportunities on Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 if more than one launch attempt is needed. 

Engineers successfully reconnected the hydrogen tail service mast umbilical where a hydrogen leak was detected during the last wet dress rehearsal test. Teams tested the connection and did not detect any leaks under ambient conditions in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Up next, technicians will perform additional work to return the section to its launch configuration. 

Technicians finished installing the rocket’s flight batteries. As part of operations to prepare the flight termination system, engineers installed and tested the core stage flight command receiver decoders and also tested the solid rocket boosters’ automatic destruct units. Work continues to complete installation of the thermal protection system blankets on the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and launch vehicle stage adapter. Following completion of the upper stage closeout work, teams will conduct flight closeout inspections, which includes removing access platforms and installing flight doors replacing the ground support equipment coverings on the core stage.  

Teams also are replacing the inflatable seal between the mobile launcher’s crew access arm and Orion’s launch abort system after it experienced some minor damage due to inclement weather sustained while it was out at launch pad 39B for the wet dress rehearsal tests. The seal prevents anything from the outside environment from getting inside the capsule. Once the seal is replaced and tested, engineers will finish installing remaining payloads inside the crew module before SLS and Orion roll back out to the pad for launch. 

NASA’s CAPSTONE Executes Third Maneuver on Track to the Moon

NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) successfully completed its third trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) on Monday. CAPSTONE is taking a long but fuel-efficient route to the Moon, flying about 958,000 miles (1.54 million kilometers) from Earth before looping back around to its near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO).

 At the completion of the maneuver, CAPSTONE was about 780,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) from Earth and was moving at about 595 miles per hour (about 267 meters per second). CAPSTONE will perform several such maneuvers during its journey to lunar orbit to refine its trajectory to the Moon.

CAPSTONE remains on track to arrive to its lunar orbit on Nov. 13.

Read more about CAPSTONE’s ambitious mission to the Moon.

Teams Press Ahead Toward Artemis I Launch in Late August

Final work continues to prepare the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Artemis I. Teams have identified placeholder dates for potential launch opportunities. They include: 

      • Aug. 29 at 8:33 a.m. EDT (Two-hour launch window); Landing Oct. 10 
      • Sept. 2 at 12:48 p.m. (Two-hour launch window); Landing Oct. 11 
      • Sept. 5 at 5:12 p.m. (90-minute launch window); Landing Oct. 17 

Technicians now are testing the newly replaced seals on the quick disconnect of the tail service mast umbilical to ensure there are no additional leaks. The seals were replaced to address a hydrogen leak during the final wet dress rehearsal in June. Following testing, teams will complete closeouts to ready that section for flight.  

Engineers are also finishing installation of the flight batteries. Teams installed the batteries for the solid rocket boosters and interim cryogenic propulsion stage this week and will install the core stage batteries next week.  

On Orion, technicians installed Commander Moonikin Campos, who is one of three “passengers” flying aboard Orion to test the spacecraft’s systems.  Commander Campos’s crew mates, Helga and Zohar, will be installed in the coming weeks.  

Progress Continues Toward Artemis I Launch 

Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians continue to prepare the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for Artemis I.  

During work to repair the source of a hydrogen leak, engineers identified a loose fitting on the inside wall of the rocket’s engine section, where the quick disconnect for the liquid hydrogen umbilical attaches. The component, called a “collet,” is a fist-sized ring that guides the quick disconnect during assembly operations. Teams will repair the collet by entering the engine section in parallel with other planned work for launch preparations. Technicians have replaced the seals on the quick disconnect of the tail service mast umbilical and will reattach the umbilical plate once the loose collet is addressed.  

NASA continues to target the late August launch period and will identify a specific target launch date after engineers have examined the collet. 

Technicians continue work associated with battery activations, and plan to turn on the core stage batteries this weekend, before they are installed on the rocket. Next up, teams will start the flight termination systems operations, which include removing the core stage and booster safe and arm devices for calibration and removing and replacing the command receiver decoders with the flight units. The safe and arm devices are a manual mechanism that put the flight termination system in either a “safe” or “arm” configuration while the command receiver decoders receive and decode the command on the rocket if the system is activated. 

Meanwhile on the Orion spacecraft, teams installed a technology demonstration that will test digital assistance and video collaboration in deep space. Engineers are also conducting powered testing on the crew module and European service module heaters and sensors.  

NASA’s CAPSTONE Executes New Maneuver, Further Pinpoints Path to Moon

NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) successfully completed its second trajectory correction maneuver starting at about 11:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

CAPSTONE will perform several such maneuvers during its four-month-long journey to lunar orbit to refine its trajectory to the Moon, with the next one targeted for late July. CAPSTONE is taking a long but fuel-efficient route to the Moon, flying about 958,000 miles (1.54 million kilometers) from Earth before looping back around to its near rectilinear halo orbit.

Read more about CAPSTONE’s ambitious mission to the Moon.

NASA’s CAPSTONE Updates Maneuver Schedule on Journey to Moon

The team for NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) is standing down from the trajectory correction maneuver scheduled for July 9 to perform additional analysis on the spacecraft’s performance. The mission team will make a determination whether the maneuver is still needed at this time, and updates will be provided.  

Trajectory correction maneuvers are thruster burns used to clean up expected variation in CAPSTONE’s orbit and more accurately target its path to the Moon. The maneuver scheduled for July 9 was to be part of CAPSTONE’s first series of trajectory corrections. CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver on July 7 achieved about 90% of the objectives for this series of maneuvers.  

CAPSTONE remains healthy and on track to arrive to its lunar orbit on Nov. 13. Read more from Advanced Space, which owns and operates CAPSTONE on behalf of NASA. 

Work Continues to Prepare Artemis I Moon Rocket for Launch  

Since the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion arrived back at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 2, teams extended the access platforms surrounding the rocket and spacecraft to perform repairs and conduct final operations before returning to launch pad 39B for the Artemis I mission.  

Technicians are working to inspect, fix, and check out equipment associated with a seal on the quick disconnect of the tail service mast umbilical that was identified as the source of a hydrogen leak during the wet dress rehearsal test that ended June 20. Engineers have disconnected the umbilical and are in the process of examining the area where they will replace two seals on the quick disconnect hardware. Working in tandem with those repairs, engineers also completed the last remaining engineering test that is part of the integrated testing operations in the VAB.  

Teams also performed additional planned work on aspects of the rocket and spacecraft. Engineers swapped out a computer on the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage called the Inertial Navigation and Control Assembly unit that was used during wet dress rehearsal activities with the one that will be used for flight and will test the unit next week. The newly installed flight unit includes freshly calibrated inertial navigation sensors and updated software to guide and navigate the upper stage during flight.  

Technicians also activated several batteries for the rocket elements, including for the solid rocket boosters and the ICPS. The batteries on the core stage will be activated in the coming weeks, and all the batteries will then be installed. The batteries provide power for the rocket elements during the final portion of the countdown on launch day and through ascent.  

Engineers also charged the batteries for the secondary payloads located on the Orion stage adapter and will work to install payloads inside the Orion spacecraft in the coming weeks.  

NASA’s CAPSTONE Pulls Off First Targeting Maneuver on Journey to the Moon

NASA’s CAPSTONE successfully completed its first trajectory correction maneuver, which started at 11:30 a.m. EDT Thursday. This is the first in a series of thruster burns over the next few months to more accurately target CAPSTONE’s transfer orbit to the Moon. The maneuver lasted just over 11 minutes and changed the spacecraft’s velocity by about 45 miles per hour (about 20 meters per second). CAPSTONE’s next trajectory correction maneuver is targeted for Saturday, July 9.  

CAPSTONE is now about 289,000 miles from Earth, beyond the orbit of the Moon. CAPSTONE will loop back around and arrive to its lunar orbit – called a near rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO – Nov. 13. CAPSTONE will fly in the NRHO for at least six months to study the dynamics of the orbit, which is the same one intended for Gateway, a lunar space station for science and human exploration under Artemis.  

Two technology demonstrations on CAPSTONE could allow future spacecraft to navigate near the Moon without as much tracking required from Earth. 

Read more from Advanced Space, which owns and operates CAPSTONE on behalf of NASA.