Artemis I: NASA has announced a new date for the launch of the first uncrewed test flight of its upcoming Moon mission. Artemis I, the first leg of NASA’s Moon mission, will take off on Saturday, September 3, 2022.
The first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems, Artemis I is an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration.
Artemis I will take off from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The two-hour launch window will open at 2:17 pm EDT (11:47 pm IST) on Saturday.
We’re now targeting Saturday, Sept. 3 for the launch of the #Artemis I flight test around the Moon. The two-hour launch window opens at 2:17 p.m. ET (18:17 UTC). pic.twitter.com/MxwdcKHGdd
— NASA (@NASA) August 30, 2022
The Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the ground systems at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are the US space agency’s deep space exploration systems.
Why Was The First Launch Attempt Of Artemis I Scrubbed?
On Tuesday, August 31, mission managers met to discuss and develop a forward plan to address issues that arise during the first launch attempt of Artemis I on August 29. The launch attempt was scrubbed due to an issue with one of the four RS-25 engines of SLS, the most powerful rocket in the world.
The launch director halted Monday’s launch attempt of Artemis I at approximately 8:34 am EDT (6:04 pm IST) on August 29.
NASA teams were unable to chill down the four RS-25 engines to approximately minus 420 degrees Fahrenheit, during the launch attempt. Engine number 3 showed higher temperatures than the other engines, according to NASA.
The teams also observed a hydrogen leak on a component of the tail service mast umbilical quick disconnect, known as the purge can. The tail service mast umbilicals on the SLS tilt back before launch to ensure all hardware safely and reliably disconnects and retracts from the rocket during liftoff.
NASA teams managed the hydrogen leak by manually adjusting propellant flow rates.
A few hours before the launch attempt, NASA engineers were troubleshooting a conditioning issue with engine number 3 of the SLS. Launch controllers increased the pressure on the core stage tanks to condition the engines, and to cause some of the cryogenic propellant to bleed to the engines. This is an important step because it ensures the engines can reach the proper temperature range to get started.
However, NASA teams observed an issue with the bleeding of engine number 3. As a result, the mission was scrubbed.
In the days before the second launch attempt of Artemis I, NASA teams will modify and practise propellant loading procedures to follow a procedure similar to what was successfully performed during the Green Run at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. A green run is the first time the SLS engines are assembled into a single configuration with the core stage and fired at nearly full power.
About 30 to 45 minutes earlier in the countdown during the liquid hydrogen fast fill phase for the core stage, NASA teams will also perform the chilldown test of the engines, known as the kick start bleed test. The platforms at Launch Pad 39B are being configured so that engineers are able to access the purge can on the tail service mast umbilical. After technicians get access to the purge can, they will perform assessments and analyse torque connection points where necessary.
The weather conditions on Saturday are favourable for launch, according to meteorologists with the US Space Force Space Launch Delta 45, a unit which launches space vehicles and is responsible for mission success.
On Thursday, September 1, the mission management team will reconvene to review data and overall readiness before the second launch attempt of Artemis I.
The Artemis project, the first human moon mission since 1972, aims to carry the first woman, and the first person of colour to the Moon, by 2024.
The first spaceflight that landed humans on the lunar surface was Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969, and the last one was Apollo 17 on December 11, 1972.
Artemis, the Goddess of the Moon in Greek Mythology, after whom NASA’s upcoming Moon mission has been named, was the twin sister of Apollo.
The objective behind the Artemis Mission is that it will enable NASA to demonstrate new technologies on the Moon, which will pave the way for future exploration of Mars.
The Artemis Mission has three stages, Artemis I, II, and III.
NASA’s massive SLS rocket and Orion Space Capsule will carry astronauts into lunar orbit. From there, SpaceX’s Human Lander System (HLS) will ferry the astronauts to the Moon’s icy south pole.
All About Artemis I
Artemis I will be an uncrewed test flight. Orion will be carried atop the super-heavy lift rocket, SLS, without any human in the capsule. If Artemis I is successful, it will be certified that the SLS and Orion can be used for the other two Artemis missions, which will be crewed flights.
The duration of Artemis I will be 42 days, three hours, and 20 minutes. Orion will launch atop SLS, the most powerful rocket in the world, and will fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown. Over the course of the mission, Orion will travel a distance of approximately 4,50,000 kilometres from Earth and 64,000 kilometres beyond the far side of the Moon. The spacecraft will stay in space longer than any human spacecraft has without docking to a space station. Orion will also return home faster and hotter than ever before.
Artemis I will demonstrate the performance of both Orion and SLS and test NASA’s capabilities to orbit the Moon and return to Earth. The first uncrewed test flight of the Artemis Program will pave the way for future missions to the lunar vicinity, including landing the first woman and the first person of colour on the surface of the Moon.
The objective of Artemis I is to set the stage for human exploration into deep space, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon needed for lunar exploration missions and to other destinations farther from Earth, including the Red Planet.