Orion’s ‘Twin’ Completes Structural Testing for Artemis I Mission

The Orion structural test article forward bay cover jettison testing in progress at Lockheed Martin near Denver.

Engineers have completed testing on a duplicate of Orion called the Structural Test Article (STA), needed to verify the spacecraft is ready for Artemis I — its first uncrewed test flight. NASA and its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built the STA to be structurally identical to Orion’s main spacecraft elements: the crew module, service module and launch abort system.

The STA testing required to qualify Orion’s design began in early 2017 and involved 20 tests, using six different configurations — from a single element, to the entire full stack — and various combinations in between. At completion, the testing verified Orion’s structural durability for all flight phases of Artemis I.

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NASA Completes Artemis Space Launch System Structural Testing Campaign

On June 24, 2020, engineers completed the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s structural testing campaign for the Artemis lunar missions by testing the liquid oxygen structural test article to find its point of failure.

For the final test, the liquid oxygen tank test article — measuring 70 feet tall and 28 feet in diameter — was bolted into a massive 185,000-pound steel ring at the base of Marshall’s Test Stand 4697. Hydraulic cylinders were then calibrated and positioned all along the tank to apply millions of pounds of crippling force from all sides while engineers measured and recorded the effects of the launch and flight forces. The liquid oxygen tank circumferentially failed in the weld location as engineers predicted and at the approximate load levels expected, proving flight readiness and providing critical data for the tank’s designers. The test concluded at approximately 9 p.m. CT. This final test to failure on the LOX STA met all the program milestones.

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Hardware on the Move for Artemis II

The Orion crew module and its adapter for the first crewed Artemis mission are undergoing testing and maintenance at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. On Artemis II, Orion will launch atop the Space Launch System rocket and carry astronauts around the Moon and back to Earth.

The Orion capsule that will fly astronauts on the Artemis II mission.
This Orion crew module adapter that will connect the capsule to the Space Launch System rocket.

Rocket Motors for First NASA Artemis Moon Mission Arrive at Spaceport

A train transporting the 10 booster segments for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket arriving at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Twin rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) that will power Artemis missions to the Moon have arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The two motor segments, each comprised of five segments, arrived at Kennedy’s Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) on June 15, 2020, by train from a Northrop Grumman manufacturing facility in Promontory, Utah. Credits: NASA/Kevin O’Connell

The rocket booster segments that will help power NASA’s first Artemis flight test mission around the Moon arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday for launch preparations.

All 10 segments for the inaugural flight of NASA’s first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft were shipped by train from Promontory, Utah. The 10-day, cross-country journey is an important milestone toward the first launch for NASA’s Artemis program.

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SLS Aft Skirts for Artemis I Move Out of Booster Fabrication Facility

Inside the Booster Fabrication Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Artemis I aft skirts for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s twin solid rocket boosters are being readied for their move to the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF). In view, the left aft skirt assembly is attached to a move vehicle and moved out of a test cell. The aft skirts were refurbished by Northrop Grumman. They house the thrust vector control system, which controls 70 percent of the steering during initial ascent of the SLS rocket. The segments will remain in the RPSF until ready for stacking with the forward and aft parts of the booster on the mobile launcher in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building.

NASA Selects Astrobotic to Fly Water-Hunting Rover to the Moon

Illustration of NASA's Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) on the surface of the Moon
Illustration of NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) on the surface of the Moon. Credits: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter

NASA has awarded Astrobotic of Pittsburgh $199.5 million to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023.

The water-seeking mobile VIPER robot will help pave the way for astronaut missions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024 and will bring NASA a step closer to developing a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

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NASA Awards Northrop Grumman Artemis Contract for Gateway Crew Cabin

Artist's concept of the Gateway power and propulsion and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, in orbit around the Moon.
Artist’s concept of the Gateway power and propulsion and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, in orbit around the Moon. Credits: NASA

NASA has finalized the contract for the initial crew module of the agency’s Gateway lunar orbiting outpost.

Orbital Science Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Space, has been awarded $187 million to design the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO) for the Gateway, which is part of NASA’s Artemis program and will help the agency build a sustainable presence at the Moon. This award funds HALO’s design through its preliminary design review, expected by the end of 2020.

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NASA Prepares To Send Artemis I Booster Segments to Kennedy for Stacking

NASA Prepares To Send Artemis I Booster Segments to Kennedy for Stacking

As it soars off the launch pad for the Artemis I missions, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is powered by two solid rocket boosters. Critical parts of the booster will soon head to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the Artemis I launch. Specialized transporters move each of the 10 solid rocket motor segments from the Northrop Grumman facility in their Promontory Point, Utah, to a departure point where they will leave for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The cross-country journey is an important milestone toward the first launch of NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

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Hello World!

NASA’s Artemis program is a new era of lunar exploration – one where we will send robots and humans to explore more of the Moon than ever before – this time to stay.

This blog will be a source of information on Artemis launch and exploration progress, covering changes and information across our science, technology and human exploration programs. We may feature guest posts from a variety of sources, take a deep dive into technical matters, address common questions and misconceptions, and more. Once we’re ready to fly, check out this blog for launch updates and other mission operations.

First up for Artemis includes sending a suite of science instruments and technology experiments to the lunar surface beginning in 2021. As part of our Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, NASA will rely on American companies to deliver these payloads to the Moon about twice per year. Deliveries are already slated for multiple locations including the lunar South Pole.

These missions will help us set the stage for a human return. NASA and our partners are preparing to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024, and establish sustainable exploration by the end of the decade.

The agency is finalizing development and testing of our powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, which will launch from a modernized Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After launch, Orion will transport crew to lunar orbit where astronauts will transfer to a modern human landing system for missions to the surface of the Moon. On the surface, they’ll wear our new extravehicular mobility unit or xEMU spacesuit, which will allow them greater flexibility to move and conduct science. There we’ll build a base camp at the South Pole and look for resources like water to help further our exploration.

Operating in lunar orbit with and without crew will be the Gateway – a new outpost supporting lunar science, sustainable surface operations and missions farther into the solar system, including Mars.

We are the Artemis Generation, and we are going. Ad lunam!