Artemis Program 2019 in Review

The Orion crew module for Artemis 1 is lifted by crane on July 16, 2019, in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Using a sustainable architecture and sophisticated hardware unlike any other, the first woman and the next man will set foot on the surface of the Moon by 2024. Artemis I, the first mission of our powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, is an important step in reaching that goal.

As we close out 2019 and look forward to 2020, here’s where we stand in the Artemis story — and what to expect in 2020. 

Cranking Up The Heat on Orion

The Orion spacecraft with European Service Module undergoing environmental testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station. (Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja)

The Artemis I Orion spacecraft arrived at our Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 26 for in-space environmental testing in preparation for Artemis I.

This four-month test campaign will subject the spacecraft, consisting of its crew module and European-built service module, to the vacuum, extreme temperatures (ranging from -250° to 300° F) and electromagnetic environment it will experience during the three-week journey around the Moon and back.

The goal of testing is to confirm the spacecraft’s components and systems work properly under in-space conditions, while gathering data to ensure the spacecraft is fit for all subsequent  Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond. This is the final critical step before the spacecraft is ready to be joined with the Space Launch System rocket for this first test flight in 2020!

Bringing Everyone Together

four RS-25 engines mated to Space Launch System core stage for Artemis 1 mission. (Credit: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

On Dec. 9, we welcomed members of the public to our Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans for #Artemis Day and to get an up-close look at the hardware that will help power our Artemis missions. The 43-acre facility has more than enough room for guests and the Artemis I, II, and III rocket hardware!

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine formally unveiled the fully assembled core stage of our SLS rocket for the first Artemis mission to the Moon, then guests toured of the facility to see flight hardware for Artemis II and III. The full-day event — complete with two panel discussions and an exhibit hall — marked a milestone moment as we prepare for an exciting next phase in 2020.

Rolling On and Moving Out

Once engineers and technicians at Michoud complete functional testing on the Artemis I core stage, it will be rolled out of the Michoud factory and loaded onto our Pegasus barge for a very special delivery indeed.

About this time last year, our Pegasus barge crew was delivering a test version of the liquid hydrogen tank from Michoud to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville for structural testing.

This season, the Pegasus team will be transporting a much larger piece of hardware — the entire core stage — on a slightly shorter journey to the agency’s nearby Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

Special Delivery

The “Green Run” test of the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) will be conducted at the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Flight Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (Credits: NASA)

Why Stennis, you ask? The giant core stage will be locked and loaded into the B2 Test Stand there for the landmark Green Run test series. During the test series, the entire stage, including its extensive avionics and flight software systems, will be tested in full.

The series will culminate with a hot fire of all four RS-25 engines and will certify the complex stage “go for launch.” The next time the core stage and its four engines fire as one will be on the launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Already Working on Artemis II

As Orion and SLS make progress toward the pad for Artemis I, employees at NASA centers and large and small companies across America are hard at work assembling and manufacturing flight hardware for Artemis II and beyond.  

The second mission of SLS and Orion will be a test flight with astronauts aboard that will go around the Moon before returning home. Our work today will pave the way for a new generation of moonwalkers and Artemis explorers.

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