After its 1.4-million-mile mission beyond the Moon and back, the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrived back at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Dec. 30. The capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11 and was transported by truck across the country from Naval Base San Diego in California to Kennedy’s Multi Payload Processing Facility in Florida.
Now that Orion is back at Kennedy, technicians will remove payloads from the capsule as part of de-servicing operations, including Commander Moonikin Campos, zero-gravity indicator Snoopy, and the official flight kit. Orion’s heat shield and other elements will be removed for extensive analysis, and remaining hazards will be offloaded.
Artemis I was a major step forward as part of NASA’s lunar exploration efforts and sets the stage for the next mission of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion to fly crew around the Moon on Artemis II.
The Artemis I Orion spacecraft is on its way back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After completing a 25.5-day, 1.4-million-mile journey beyond the Moon and back Dec. 11, the spacecraft was recovered from the Pacific Ocean and transported to U.S. Naval Base San Diego, where engineers prepared the spacecraft for its trek by truck to Kennedy. Orion is scheduled to arrive to Kennedy’s Multi Payload Processing Facility by the end of the year.
Once at Kennedy, technicians will open the hatch and unload several payloads, including Commander Moonikin Campos, zero-gravity indicator Snoopy, and the official flight kit as part of de-servicing operations. In addition to removing the payloads, Orion’s heat shield and other elements will be removed for analysis, and remaining hazards will be offloaded.
NASA also has released new aerial footage of Orion’s descent through the clouds and splashdown taken from an Unmanned Aircraft System or drone. View the new imagery of spacecraft’s return to Earth here.
Team members with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program successfully removed the Artemis I Orion spacecraft from the USS Portland Dec. 14, after the ship arrived at U.S. Naval Base San Diego a day earlier. The spacecraft successfully splashed down Dec. 11 in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California after completing a 1.4 million-mile journey beyond the Moon and back, and was recovered by NASA’s Landing and Recovery team and personnel from the Department of Defense.
Engineers will conduct inspections around the spacecraft’s windows before installing hard covers and deflating the five airbags on the crew module uprighting system in preparation for the final leg of Orion’s journey over land. It will be loaded on a truck and transported back to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for post-flight analysis.
Before its departure, teams will open Orion’s hatch as part of preparations for the trip to Kennedy and remove the Biology Experiment-1 payload which flew onboard Orion. The experiment involves using plant seeds, fungi, yeast, and algae to study the effects of space radiation before sending humans to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars. Removing the payload prior to Orion’s return to Kennedy allows scientists to begin their analysis before the samples begin to degrade.
Once it arrives to Kennedy, Orion will be delivered to the Multi-Payload Processing Facility where additional payloads will be taken out, its heat shield and other elements will be removed for analysis, and remaining hazards will be offloaded.
The Orion spacecraft has been secured in the well deck of the USS Portland. The ship will soon begin its trip back to U.S. Naval Base San Diego, where engineers will remove Orion from the ship in preparation for transport back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for post-flight analysis.
Upon Orion’s successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California at 9:40 PST/12:40 EST Dec. 11, flight controllers in mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston spent about two hours performing tests in open water to gather additional data about the spacecraft, including on its thermal properties after enduring the searing heat of re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. Recovery personnel also spent time collecting detailed imagery of the spacecraft before beginning to pull the capsule into the USS Portland’s well deck.
The recovery process involved divers attaching a cable called a winch line and several additional tending lines attached to the crew module. The winch was used to pull Orion into a specially designed cradle inside the ship’s well deck and the other lines were used to control the motion of the spacecraft. The recovery team consists of personnel and assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, including Navy amphibious specialists and Space Force weather specialists, and engineers and technicians from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Lockheed Martin Space Operations.
Orion is expected to arrive to shore Dec. 13 with offload expected on Dec. 15.
Weather conditions remain 90% favorable for the Artemis I launch based on the Monday, Nov. 14 forecast from meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force Space Launch Delta 45. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:04 a.m. EST Wednesday, Nov. 16 with a two-hour launch window.
The mission management team will reconvene this afternoon to review additional analysis from overnight operations in preparation for launch. NASA is targeting a teleconference at 6 p.m. to discuss the outcome of the meeting. Listen on the agency’s website at: https://www.nasa.gov/live .
Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force Space Launch Delta 45 currently predict 90% favorable weather conditions for the Artemis I launch targeted for Nov. 16. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:04 a.m. EST with a two-hour launch window.
The mission management team will meet this afternoon to review the status of preparations for launch. NASA will host a teleconference at 7 p.m. to discuss the outcome following the meeting. Listen on the agency’s website at: https://www.nasa.gov/live .
Around 8:30 a.m. EDT on Nov. 4, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrived at launch pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a nearly nine-hour journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building. Teams will continue working to configure SLS and Orion for the upcoming Nov. 14. launch attempt.
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.
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.
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.