Artemis-1: NASA's Countdown to biggest test flight of the year.

SLS rocket with Orion spacecraft takes off on Monday in the test for the first crew-rated lunar spacecraft mission in 50 years

SLS/ Artemis-1 Launch Infographics

The American space agency – NASA announced on Monday, August 22, 2022, that it has released its Artemis I mission for the unmanned test flight around the Moon next week. Liftoff is scheduled for Monday, August 29, during a two-hour window that opens at 8:33 am EDT (12:33 GMT). Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force Space Launch Delta 45 continue to predict a 70% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch of Artemis I on Aug. 29. The primary weather concern for the two-hour launch window remains scattered rain showers.

At Launch Pad 39B, engineers have closed the launch abort system hatch and retracted the crew access arm. Teams continue to plan to begin the countdown for launch at 10:23 a.m. EDT Aug. 27

The historic mission of the so-called 'Mega Moon Rocket' (Lunar Megarocket), or Space Launch System (SLS), the first of NASA's program to “return astronauts to the Moon”, will take off from the 'Pad' 39B platform at the Space Center. Kennedy, Florida. It will be the first flight of the 98-meter Space Launch System – NASA's most powerful rocket ever – and the second test of its Orion spacecraft.

Artemis 1 is the vanguard mission of NASA's Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2025 and land the first woman and person of color at the lunar South Pole, a region astronauts have never seen with their own eyes. The mission flight will send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a 42-day trip to orbit the moon and return to Earth to test if the spacecraft is ready to carry astronauts.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022 Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Mission managers said last Monday that they intend to force the Orion spacecraft to go beyond the original parameters for manned flights to ensure the test. The mission's 42-day marathon is longer than the standard 10-day manned flights that NASA has planned. This will give the Americans and the European Space Agency, which built the spacecraft's service module, time to identify any issues to be resolved for the first manned flight. Orion is also carrying a "Moonikin Campos” dummy and two humanoid torsos covered with sensors to measure the effects of vibration and space radiation on the human body, while ten small CubeSats will be ejected from the SLS's second stage during flight to test new imaging technologies. exploration. “We are pushing the vehicle to its limit,

That manned flight will be Artemis II, which NASA expects to fly in 2024. Artemis III, the first crewed lunar landing, is scheduled for 2025 and will use a SpaceX landing module, the Lunar Starship, to take astronauts to one of thirteen candidate sites on the Moon's South Pole. But both missions, of course, depend on how Artemis I ends up. “This will be the first flight of a new rocket and a new spacecraft,” Mike Sarafin told reporters. “We are doing something that is incredibly difficult to do and carries inherent risks.” Previously, an Orion spacecraft made a long-orbit flight in 2014, but launched by a United launch Alliance Delta-IV Heavy rocket.

“We're going to launch, which is absolutely excellent,” the agency's associate administrator, former astronaut Robert Cabana, told reporters at a news conference. “This day took a long time to come.” NASA currently has three chances to launch Artemis I in its current flight window, which opens August 29, following a Launch Readiness Review meeting.

Artemis I Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson (NASA)

NASA director of launch tests Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said the teams have two final tests to work on, one on the rocket's solid propellant boosters (extended versions of those used on shuttles) and one on the connections between the rocket and its mobile launch table. The team has an important test, to verify a fix for a leak detected in a June fueling test during to prepare the rocket engines for its super-cooled propellant, this test can only be performed on launch day.


Exploration Flight Test-1 or EFT-1 (formerly known as Orion Flight Test 1 or OFT-1) was the first test flight of the crew module of the Orion spacecraft “Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle”. It was an uncrewed launch, which took off on December 5, 2014, at 12:05 UTC, by a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The mission was a four-hour, two-orbit test of the crew capsule on a high-apogee trajectory on the second orbit and concluding with a 'high-energy' reentry at about 8.9 kilometers per second. The flight was intended to test several of the spacecraft's systems, including separation events, avionics, heat shield, parachute, and recovery operations prior to its flight aboard the Space Launch System on Artemis 1, more than seven years after EFT-1. This was a mission corresponding to 1967's Apollo 4, which validated the Apollo spacecraft's flight control system and heat shield under the re-entry conditions planned for the return of the lunar missions.


Artemis-1 Secondary Payloads

Technicians inspect some of the satellites mounted on the adapter linking the Orion spacecraft to the upper stage. The small satellites are packed in boxes, the dispensers, which open and, through a mechanism of springs, launch them out of the containers at the predetermined time.

The ten cubesats that “hitchhike” to deep space on the SLS rocket that will launch with Artemis-I, promise new discoveries about the Moon, space weather and asteroids. But some small spacecraft will launch with their batteries only partially charged after sitting inside the adapter housing for more than a year. Retracted for launch, the cubesats are the size of a large cereal box. They are stored inside dispensers mounted on the ring-shaped adapter that sits just below the Orion ship.

The cubesats traveling on the Artemis I mission are stored inside the Orion Stage Adapter, located just below the spacecraft on the rocket. Here, the location of the adapter cone on the rocket

NASA is using the excess capacity of the new heavy-lift rocket to launch the small cubesats, a class of tiny satellites that have proliferated into near-Earth orbits for remote sensing and communications missions. Scientists are keen to use the relatively inexpensive design to carry out missions further afield. "Artemis I will test our spacecraft and equipment that we will use to take astronauts to the Moon," said Jacob Bleacher, NASA's chief exploration scientist. “Furthermore, it allows us to test the use of secondary payloads from cubesats that can be launched beyond low orbit.”

Arrangement of the satellite dispensers on the adapter ring

The payloads of this 'rideshare' are stored inside ejector devices on the Orion Stage Adapter, the interface that connects the carrier rocket with the spacecraft. The adapter was 'stacked' ('mounted on') the rocket last October inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Center. The cubesats themselves were packed inside their ejectors before that. Nine of the satellites were installed on the adapter last July, and the final 'ridehsare' payload was added in September. At that time, the start of the mission was expected in late 2021 or early 2022. Turns out, the launch was delayed by more than half a year, with the date now set for the 29th. The delays caused some officials to worry about cargo loading cubesat battery. Five of the ten had their batteries recharged, while the others did not due to design and access restrictions. In at least one case, those responsible chose not to recharge the battery of one of them. Some of these cubesats with no battery charge can run once exposed to sunlight, through their solar batteries.

“There were several that could be refilled and several that just didn't have that capacity when they were stacked,” Bleacher said. “At this point, it is difficult to recharge these cubesats. So we're trying to work on preparations and get the SLS ready to fly. That's the best thing we can do right now.

“The main objective here is to fly the SLS and Orion and check the system, make sure it will work and be ready for Artemis II, when we will have our astronauts on board,” said Bleacher. “If we launch the SLS later this month or early September, we hope that everyone will have the opportunity to fly.” "We're at the point where we're getting ready for the flight," said Mike Sarafin, mission manager at NASA. “The remainder of these cubesats, based on analysis, we believe have sufficient payload to carry out a mission. Some may actually need to recharge after being ejected, after gaining power through their solar panels. But we believe that each of them has a mission. “That said, cubesats are relatively low cost,” Sarafin said.


NASA selected 13 cubesat missions to launch on the first SLS flight in 2016 and 2017. At that time, the agency said it expected the first flight to launch in late 2018. But three of the satellites ran into problems that made them miss their chance in Artemis I. The ten cubesats that made it to the finals for Artemis I were:


• BioSentinel: This project is led by NASA's Ames Research Center in California and will investigate the effects of deep space radiation on living organisms. The cubesat transports dry yeast cells on microfluidic cards, which allow microorganisms to be rehydrated after the BioSentinel reaches deep space.


• Lunar IceCube: This mission, led by Morehead State University in Kentucky, will orbit the Moon with an infrared spectrometer to investigate the presence of water and organic molecules on the lunar surface and in the lunar exosphere. This satellite was not recharged before launch. "These are some of the most complex cubesats ever produced," said Ben Malphrus, principal investigator for the Lunar IceCube mission. “To achieve the performance levels needed to do research, we had to go further. We had to take risks and the engineers balanced those risks with the project's resources. And that comes down to a bit of a gamble.” Malphrus said more than 50 students worked on the mission over more than five years of development. "For me, this is really like a third child," Hardgrove said.


• NEA Scout: The NEA Scout mission will eject a solar sail to guide itself to a flyby with a small asteroid. The satellite was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Marshall Space Flight Center.


• LunaH-Map: The Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper, developed at Arizona State University, will map the hydrogen content of the entire South Pole of the Moon, including within permanently shadowed regions at high resolution, according to NASA. This satellite has not been recharged. Craig Hardgrove, the mission's principal investigator, said the rocket's engineers were "not comfortable" with recharging the cubesats while they were stacked on the launch vehicle. He said data on the state of charge of his satellite's batteries, however, suggested the mission "must be in a very good position" if the mission takes off in late August or early September.


• CuSP: The cubesat for studying Solar Particles, or CuSP, will orbit the Sun in interplanetary space. Developed by the Southwest Research Institute, CuSP will observe particles and magnetic fields that travel away from the sun before reaching Earth, where they can trigger geomagnetic storms and other space weather events. This satellite was also not recharged


• LunIR: Developed by Lockheed Martin, the Lunar Infrared Imaging mission will perform a flyby of the Moon to collect thermal images of the surface. The mission will also demonstrate cubesat technologies in deep space. This one was also not reloaded.


• Team Miles: This privately developed cubesat will test a miniature plasma propulsion system in deep space. The Team Miles mission is a partnership between Miles Space and Fluid & Reason LLC, two Florida-based companies. Also not reloaded before launch


• EQUULEUS: The 6U EQUIlibriUm Lunar-Earth point 6U satellite will travel to the L2 Lagrange Earth-Moon point beyond the other side of the Moon. Developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the University of Tokyo, the mission will image Earth's plasmasphere, observe impacts on the lunar far side and demonstrate low-energy trajectory control maneuvers near the Moon.


• OMOTENASHI: Outstanding MOon Exploration Technologies demonstrated by the NAno Semi-Hard Impactor mission, also developed by JAXA and the University of Tokyo, will attempt a “semi-hard” landing on the surface of the Moon using a solid-propellant rocket engine.


• ArgoMoon: This mission will use a small satellite to perform proximity maneuvers around the upper stage of the SLS after the Orion Stage Adapter is ejected. The ArgoMoon, provided by the Italian Space Agency in partnership with the Italian company Argotec, will take high-resolution images of the upper stage for historical documentation.


The Artemis I mission has backup launch dates set for September 2nd and 5th, but theoretically it could launch any day from September 2nd to September 6th if it doesn't take off on August 29th. "If we're below the minimum state of charge needed to boot our flight computer, we'll have two solar panels closed off after the dispenser ejects us into space, so those two panels charge the batteries," Hardgrove said. “Assuming the batteries aren't depleted to zero, we should be able to charge them within a short time after ejection.

“All cubesats are in a slightly different situation,” he said. “But for the LunaH-Map, I think we should take it easy with the launch approaching.” The managers in charge of the Team Miles mission believe their satellite is in good condition. The batteries are about 85% charged, according to Wesley Faler, mission leader. “We had the opportunity to charge, but we chose not to,” Faler said. “There is such a low rate of discharge in our batteries that we have found there is no point in “rocking the boat” and introducing the charging variable.” Scientists leading the hitchhiking missions on Artemis I know their missions are risky, as few cubesats have ever ventured into deep space.


Artemis-1 Journey to Moon and Back (NASA Infographics)

The Artemis I countdown will begin with a “call to stations” for engineers and technicians working operations consoles at the Launch Control Center (LCC) at Kennedy, the Mission Control Center at Johnson, the SLS Engineering Support Center (SESC) at Marshall, and several contractor locations.

Major events of the Artemis I flight, including solid rocket booster jettison, core stage and launch vehicle stage adapter separation, and ICPS and Orion stage adapter separation from Orion. Following separation with Orion, CubeSat payloads will be released into deep space.


Artemis 1 Mission Detailed Map