- NASA’s Orion spacecraft ready to join rocket ahead of Moon mission
- The $12.2 Billion Craft Will Carry the First Woman and Next Man in Our Lunar Satellite
- Orion will fly around the Moon without astronauts later this year or early 2022
- If Artemis-1 is successful, the astronauts will land on the Moon via Crew 2 and Artemis-3
- The Artemis program, named after Apollo’s sister, aims to return to the Moon by 2024
NASA’s $12.2 billion Orion spacecraft is set to join a rocket that could send it to our lunar satellite later this year or early 2022.
For its upcoming flight, Orion will fly around the Moon without astronauts as part of plans to return humans to the lunar surface later this decade.
The spacecraft was moved between buildings at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Monday, and is now to be lifted on the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).
Orion is part of the Artemis program – named after Apollo’s twin sister – that aims to make a permanent human presence on the Moon by 2028.
The first mission, called Artemis-1, will fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans, as it sends astronauts Artemis-2 for a loop around the Moon in late 2023. The crew tests the SLS and Orion before allowing it.
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NASA’s Orion spaceship (pictured), which will carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon, is set to be joined by a rocket that could send it to our lunar satellite later this year.
For its upcoming flight, Orion will fly around the Moon without astronauts as part of plans to bring people back to the lunar surface later this decade.
The spacecraft was towed between buildings at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Monday, and is to be lifted onto the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System.
What are NASA’s plans for Orion?
NASA’s Orion, standing on a Space Launch System rocket capable of lifting 70 metric tons, will launch from Kennedy Space Center for the first time later this year or early 2022.
The unmanned spacecraft will travel into distant retrograde orbit, breaking the distance record achieved by the most distant Apollo spacecraft, and then 30,000 miles away (275,000 miles in total).
The mission is expected to last 22 days and is designed to test the system’s readiness for future crewed operations.
After unmanned space flight tests, the first crew will launch to the Moon, before the astronauts re-land on Artemis-3 By 2024 at the earliest.
It is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars.
The Orion spacecraft that will be used on Artemis-1 was moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) after being placed in another facility at the Cape Canaveral site.
While it was there, engineers attached the vehicle’s launch abort system, which is used to lift Orion and its astronauts away from the SLS rocket if an emergency occurs during a crewed launch.
The spacecraft made its way to the VAB, traveling about 6.2 miles at an average speed of 3mph in about four hours. It will be stacked on top of SLS over the next few days.
Assembly of the SLS launcher, which is 322 feet (98 m) tall, has been underway since December last year, with Orion to be its last significant part.
Artemis-1 and 2 will be followed by Artemis-3, which will see astronauts land on the Moon for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
As well as carrying the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface, the Artemis program will also see the first man to travel in color.
In August, NASA said that despite technical and budgetary setbacks, it was still on target to launch the first landing mission in 2024.
It could launch this year or as early as 2022 and is part of the Artemis program, named after Apollo’s sister, that aims to make a permanent human presence on the Moon by 2028.
Artemis-1 is a three-week mission that will fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans. It will test the SLS and Orion before allowing the crew of Artemis-2 to astronauts for a loop around the Moon in late 2023.
The Orion spacecraft used on Artemis-1 was moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building after being housed in another facility at the Cape Canaveral site.
The spacecraft made its way to the VAB, traveling about 6.2 miles at an average of 3 mph in about 4 hours. Over the next few days, it will be placed over the SLS (pictured)
Key Figures of the Space Launch System
Length: 212 feet
Diameter: 27.6 ft
empty weight: 188,000 lbs
Stuff: aluminum 2219
Max Speed: Mach 23
Capacity: 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen
Four astronauts would leave Earth, and two would carry the SpaceX Human Landing System (HLS) to the surface, landing in the Moon’s south polar region and remaining for 6.5 days, performing four moons in that time.
The HLS is based on Elon Musk’s Starship craft, which is being tested at a site in southern Texas.
Artemis is the successor to the Apollo program, in which Neil Armstrong and 11 others walked the surface of our only natural satellite in the 1960s and 70s.
The 2024 deadline was already an ambitious one, but it has been brought into further doubt by Jeff Bezos’ legal challenges over the lunar lander contract, spacesuit issues, and budgetary constraints imposed by Congress.
Blue Origin, the space firm owned by Bezos, is suing NASA over its decision to exclusively award a £2.1 billion ($2.9 billion) lunar lander contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The Amazon founder claims that NASA broke convention, and moved the goalposts, by not choosing two candidates out of three.