DENVER (NASA PR) — Before NASA astronauts fly the Orion spacecraft on Artemis missions to the Moon and back, engineers needed to thoroughly test its ability to withstand the stresses of launch, climb to orbit, the harsh conditions of deep space transit, and return to Earth. NASA designed Orion from the beginning specifically to support astronauts on missions farther from Earth than any other spacecraft built for humans.
NASA’s Orion crew vehicle has made good progress over the past year, with the completion of a launch abort test and thermal vacuum testing on the spacecraft scheduled to an automated flight test around the moon next year, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Although Orion has suffered delays and budget overruns during development, the Space Launch System (SLS) that will send it to the moon is even more behind schedule due to development problems, the report found.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft, a critical part of the agency’s Artemis I mission, has completed three months of testing at the agency’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. During the testing, the craft was subjected to the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic environment it will experience in its upcoming test mission to the Moon.
NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurcyk said on Friday that the first Artemis mission to the moon will not launch later this year but will hopefully fly in the mid- to late 2021 time frame.
It marks yet another delay in a program that is already running years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The slip potentially makes the Trump Administration’s goal of landing astronauts at the south pole of the moon in 2024 more difficult to achieve.
by Linda Herridge NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will have a busy year preparing facilities, ground support equipment and space hardware for the launch of Artemis I, the first uncrewed launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft. In 2020, Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) activities will ramp up as launch hardware arrives and teams put systems in place for Artemis I and II missions.
Video Caption: The first flight of the Artemis programme, which will see humans return to the Moon, is scheduled to begin soon.
The lunar spacecraft consists of NASA’s Orion crew module and the European Service Module, or ESM. Developed by ESA and building on technology from its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the ESM will provide propulsion, life support, environmental control and electrical power to Orion.
The Artemis 1 spacecraft modules are undergoing thermal vacuum and electromagnetic interference tests in the world’s largest space simulation vacuum chamber at the Glenn Research Centre’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, USA.
MANSFIELD, Ohio (NASA PR) — Almost 1,500 people turned out Sunday, November 24 to watch NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft arrive at Mansfield Lahm Airport with the Orion spacecraft for Artemis I aboard. After viewing exhibits, the crowd gathered at the flight line to await the aircraft.
Once the Guppy touched down, there was a loud cheer from the crowd as it taxied to a stop for the night just as the sun began to set.
The nose of the Guppy was opened at sunrise on Monday, November 25 revealing the packaged Orion spacecraft inside. It has been removed from the aircraft and is loaded onto a large flatbed trailer so it can be transported to NASA’s Plum Brook Station for testing.
Completed in two phases inside the world’s largest vacuum chamber, testing will begin with a thermal test, which will last approximately 60 days, while Orion’s systems are powered-on under vacuum conditions that simulate the space environment.
During this phase, the spacecraft will be subjected to extreme
temperatures, ranging from -250 to 300-degrees Fahrenheit, to replicate
flying in-and-out of sunlight and shadow in space. The second phase is
an electromagnetic interference and compatibility test, lasting about 14
days. This testing will ensure the spacecraft’s electronics work
properly when operated at the same time.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (ESA PR) — The first Orion spacecraft was unveiled in its entirety on 18 July at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. After assembling the European Service Module in Bremen, Germany, and the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module in USA, the three elements of the spacecraft are now integrated into the full Orion that stands almost as high as a two-storey house.