Orion recognized as ready to fly to the Moon

Specialists of the Space Center named after Kennedy was recognized as ready to launch the Orion spacecraft. It will go into space as part of the Artemis I mission, the implementation of which is scheduled for the end of August.

Orion and SLS pre-launch preparation

Last month, NASA announced the dates chosen for the first launch attempt of the superheavy SLS rocket. As part of the Artemis I mission, it will send an unmanned Orion spacecraft to the Moon, which will spend several weeks in its vicinity, after which it will return to Earth. At the moment, the launch of SLS is scheduled for August 29. The spare launch windows will be open on September 2 and 5.

Interior of the Orion spacecraft, which will be involved in the Artemis I mission. Source: NASA

In preparation for the upcoming launch, the specialists of the Space Center named after Kennedy conducted a series of final tests of Orion, and also installed inside it all the equipment and payload necessary for the mission. The checks did not reveal any problems, after which NASA officially recognized the spacecraft as suitable for space flight.

In parallel with the Orion test, engineers are also preparing SLS. In particular, they installed insulating blankets on the upper stage, and also replaced the doors of the engine compartment of the central stage. According to a post on the NASA website, the preparation of the superheavy rocket is proceeding normally and the management has no plans to change the launch date.

Artemis I Mission Objectives

If everything goes according to plan, the SLS rocket will send Orion to the Moon. Together with it, a flotilla of ten cubesats will go into space, designed to perform various tasks — from monitoring space weather to studying near-Earth asteroids. Interestingly, initially the launch manifest of the mission assumed the inclusion of thirteen associated loads, but three vehicles were not prepared at the right time.

Orion spacecraft in orbit around the Moon in the artist’s image. Source: NASA

Orion will have to enter a far retrograde orbit (FRO) around the Moon. It lies at a considerable distance from the lunar surface — at the apogee, the spacecraft will move away from the moon of our planet by 70 thousand km. Mission specialists chose FRO because of its stability. The spacecraft located on it are “balanced” by the gravitational pull of the Earth and the Moon, which reduces fuel consumption.

During the entire flight, NASA engineers will monitor the behavior of the device and test its systems. Sensors inside the spacecraft will also measure the overloads and radiation doses that the spacecraft crew would have received.

The proposed orbit and main maneuvers of the Orion spacecraft as part of the Artemis I mission. Source: NASA

In total, the flight plan assumes that Orion will spend 42 days in space. When launched on August 29, the capsule of the spacecraft will have to be brought into the Pacific Ocean on October 10.

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