Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have installed the first of four RS-25 engines on the core stage of the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket that will help power NASA’s first crewed Artemis mission to the Moon. During Artemis II, NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen will launch on SLS and journey around the Moon inside the Orion spacecraft during an approximately 10-day mission in preparation for future lunar missions.
The Sept. 11 engine installation follows the joining of all five major structures that make up the SLS core stage earlier this spring. NASA, lead RS-25 engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3 Harris Technologies company, and Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, will continue integrating the remaining three engines into the stage and installing the propulsion and electrical systems within the structure.
All four RS-25 engines are located at the base of the core stage within the engine section, which protects the engines from the extreme temperatures during launch and has an aerodynamic boat tail fairing to channel airflow. During launch and flight, the four engines will fire nonstop for over eight minutes, consuming propellant from the core stage’s two massive propellant tanks at a rate of 1,500 gallons (5,678 liters) per second.
Each SLS engine has a different serial number. The serial number for the engine installed Sept. 11 in position two on the core stage is E2059. It along with the engine in position one, E2047, previously flew on space shuttle flights. E2047 is the most veteran engine of the entire set flying on Artemis II with 15 shuttle flights, including STS-98, which delivered the Destiny Laboratory Module to the International Space Station in 2001. The engines installed in positions three and four (E2062 and E2063) are new engines that include previously flown hardware.
NASA is working to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with Orion and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.
On Aug. 13, engineers and technicians inside the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida successfully completed a series of acoustic tests to ensure the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis II mission can withstand the speed and vibration it will experience during launch and throughout the 10-day mission around the Moon, the first Artemis mission with astronauts.
During the testing, engineers surrounded the crew module with large stacks of speakers, and attached microphones, accelerometers, and other equipment to measure the effects of different acoustic levels. Engineers and technicians will now analyze the data collected during the tests.
Prior to testing, the four Artemis II astronauts visited the high bay and viewed their ride to the Moon. With this test complete, technicians at Kennedy are on track to integrate Orion’s crew and service modules this fall.
The Artemis II crew – NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Hammock Koch, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen – visited Naval Base San Diego on July 19 ahead of the first Artemis II recovery test in the Pacific Ocean, Underway Recovery Test-10. The test will build on the success of Artemis I recovery and ensure NASA and the Department of Defense personnel can safely recover astronauts and their Orion spacecraft after their trip around the Moon on the first crewed Artemis mission.
The crew met with recovery team members from NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program and the Department of Defense to learn more about the recovery process for their mission, which includes being extracted from the spacecraft after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean and being lifted via helicopter to the recovery ship where they will undergo routine medical checks before returning to shore.
The visit included a walkdown of the ground equipment and facilities the team uses to practice recovery procedures along with a walkthrough of the recovery ship. The crew will participate in full recovery testing at sea next year.
On June 25, 2023, teams completed installation of the heat shield for the Artemis II Orion spacecraft inside the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The 16.5-foot-wide heat shield is one of the most important systems on the Orion spacecraft ensuring a safe return of the astronauts on board. As the spacecraft returns to Earth following its mission around the Moon, it will be traveling at speeds of about 25,000 mph and experience outside temperatures of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the spacecraft, however, astronauts will experience a much more comfortable temperature in the mid-70s thanks to Orion’s thermal protection system.
Up next, the spacecraft will be outfitted with some of its external panels ahead of acoustic testing later this summer. These tests will validate the crew module can withstand the vibrations it will experience throughout the Artemis II mission, during launch, flight, and landing.
Once acoustic testing is complete, technicians will attach the crew module to Orion’s service module, marking a major milestone for the Artemis II mission, the first mission with astronauts under Artemis that will test and check out all of Orion’s systems needed for future crewed missions.
Teams are performing final checkouts of the Orion spacecraft’s service module before integrating the crew and service modules for Artemis II, the first Artemis mission with crew. In parallel, technicians from Airbus will conduct inspections of the solar array wings following the successful completion of service module acoustic testing in May, which ensured the service module can withstand the speed and vibration it will experience during launch and throughout the mission. During the inspections, each of the four panels will be fully redeployed and reexamined. The crew module also will undergo acoustic testing ahead of joining with the service module.
Provided by ESA (European Space Agency), the service module is the powerhouse that will fuel, propel, and provide in-space maneuvering capability, and is responsible for life support commodities such as water and breathable air for astronauts onboard Orion in support of future Artemis missions.
Engineers recently completed a series of acoustic tests on the European Service Module for NASA’s Artemis II mission while inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
During the testing, engineers surrounded the service module with large speakers and attached microphones, accelerometers, and other equipment to measure the effects of different acoustic levels. Engineers and technicians will analyze the data collected during the tests to ensure the service module can withstand the speed and vibration it will experience during launch and throughout the mission.
With this test complete, the team is on track to integrate Orion’s crew and service modules together later this year.
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 Biological Experiment-01 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.