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.
Built by teams at ESA (European Space Agency) and aerospace corporation Airbus, the European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Oct. 14, aboard the Russian Antonov aircraft. This service module will be used for Artemis II, the first Artemis mission flying crew aboard Orion. Service module assembly was completed at the Airbus facility in Bremen, Germany, and the module traveled across the world on its journey to Kennedy.
The service module is the powerhouse that will fuel and propel Orion in space. It stores the spacecraft’s propulsion, thermal control, electrical power, and critical life support systems such as water, oxygen, and nitrogen.
The service module will be transferred from the Launch and Landing Facility to Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility where teams from NASA and Lockheed Martin will integrate it with the crew module adapter and crew module, already housed in the facility.
With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface. Artemis II will be the first crewed flight test of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion, paving the way for human exploration to the Moon and Mars.
As NASA prepares for the uncrewed Artemis I test flight, teams at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center are also hard at work getting ready for the Artemis II mission that will send astronauts on a trip around the Moon ahead of a crewed lunar landing.
This includes assessing a new prototype “rainbird” system designed to protect the mobile launcher – as well as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) – when the engines roar to life. The March 24 tests included running various water pressures through small-scale, 3D-printed nozzles to capture data that can be used to develop full-scale hardware.
The rainbirds will release enough water to fill 40 swimming pools in 40 seconds. This massive volume will help absorb the heat and energy when SLS, the most powerful rocket the agency has ever built, lifts off with the Orion spacecraft from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B.
While upgraded rainbirds – large-scale water nozzles – have already been tested and installed on the mobile launcher for the Artemis I launch, Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) found room for improvement. This led teams from EGS and supporting contractors to start testing another prototype system to distribute water more evenly to maximize performance ahead of the Artemis II launch.
“By running our prototype through a range of pressures, we can simulate what each of the rainbirds will see on the mobile launcher on launch day and have a better understanding of how they will perform when we scale them back up to full size,” said Dave Valletta, a design engineer at Kennedy working on the ignition overpressure protection and sound suppression (IOPSS) system.
A critical piece of the IOPSS system, the rainbird got its name decades ago when space shuttle developers noted that it looked like a garden sprayer.
“When we saw the pattern of the water discharge during the first test flow in the shuttle program, it reminded us of your common lawn sprinkler, only it did not rotate and was 100 times the size,” said Jerry Smith, a design engineer for mechanical-fluid systems at Kennedy.
Once prototype testing is complete, allowing better prediction of future spray patterns, the team will move forward with designing a preferred concept. That concept will be built and installed on the mobile launcher to undergo verification and validation testing, where the newly installed nozzles will be fully integrated with the launch pad to ensure they work as expected.
“The confidence check gained from these tests will lead us to developing full-scale nozzles for the mobile launcher,” said Gerald Patterson, IOPSS and fire suppression system operations engineer and test lead. “Once installed, they’ll provide more efficient water distribution across the deck and, ultimately, better protection to ground systems, the SLS rocket, and its crew for Artemis II and beyond.”
Kennedy Space Center has received a critical piece of hardware in support of the Artemis II crewed mission. The launch abort motor for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) arrived in Florida April 13 from Northrop Grumman in Promontory, Utah, and was transported to the Launch Abort System Facility where it will undergo testing in preparation for use on the second Artemis mission.
The launch abort motor is one of three motors on the LAS and is capable of producing about 400,000 pounds of thrust to steer and pull the crew module away from the rocket. The attitude control motor and the jettison motor complete the trio of motors responsible for controlling the LAS.
The LAS weighs about 16,000 pounds and is installed on top of the Orion crew module. It is designed to protect astronauts in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch or ascent. The system pulls the spacecraft away from a falling rocket and reorients the crew module to provide a safe landing for the crew.
Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon. Orion will launch atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket to carry astronauts to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. NASA will develop a sustainable presence at the Moon and apply knowledge gained to pave the way for human exploration of Mars.