Tag Archives: Space Exploration

Artemis I unmanned flight-test set to launch Aug. 29, 2022 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida weather permitting. Flight to provide commitment to Human deep space exploration with goal to return humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond. (Update, Sept. 3: Artemis I Flight-Test scrubbed and now postponed until further notice)

With Artemis I, NASA sets the stage for human exploration into deep space, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars. With Artemis, NASA will collaborate with industry and international partners to establish long-term exploration for the first time.

Kennedy Space Center, Florida -Artemis I is the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I is an unmanned flight test that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate our commitment and capability to return humans to the Moon and extend beyond.

  • Launch site: Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
  • Launch date: Aug. 29, 2022
  • Launch window: 8:33 a.m. EDT to 10:33 a.m.
  • Mission Duration: 42 days, 3 hours, 20 minutes
  • Destination: distant retrograde orbit around the Moon
  • Total mission miles: approximately 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers)
  • Targeted splashdown site: Pacific Ocean, off the coast of San Diego
  • Return speed: Up to 25,000 mph (40,000 kph)
  • Splashdown: Oct. 10, 2022

During this flight, Orion will launch atop the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown. Over the course of the mission, it will travel 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) from Earth and 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) beyond the far side of the Moon. Orion will stay in space longer than any human spacecraft has without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.

This first Artemis mission will demonstrate the performance of both Orion and the SLS rocket and test our capabilities to orbit the Moon and return to Earth. The flight will pave the way for future missions to the lunar vicinity, including landing the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the Moon.

With Artemis I, NASA sets the stage for human exploration into deep space, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars. With Artemis, NASA will collaborate with industry and international partners to establish long-term exploration for the first time.

Launch

SLS and Orion will blast off from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s modernized spaceport at Kennedy. Propelled by a pair of five-segment boosters and four RS-25 engines, the rocket will reach the period of greatest atmospheric force within 90 seconds. The solid rocket boosters will burn through their propellant and separate after approximately two minutes, and the core stage and RS-25s will deplete propellant after approximately eight minutes. After jettisoning the boosters, service module panels, and launch abort system, the core stage engines will shut down and the core stage will separate from the spacecraft, leaving Orion attached to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) that will propel it toward the Moon.

As the spacecraft makes an orbit of Earth and deploys its solar arrays, the ICPS will give Orion the big push it needs to leave Earth’s orbit and travel toward the Moon. This maneuver, known as the trans-lunar injection, precisely targets a point about the Moon that will guide Orion close enough to be captured by the Moon’s gravity.

In Space

Orion will separate from the ICPS approximately two hours after launch. The ICPS will then deploy ten small satellites, known as CubeSats, along the way to study the Moon or head father out to deep space destinations. As Orion continues on its path from Earth orbit to the Moon, it will be propelled by a service module provided by ESA (European Space Agency) that will course-correct as needed along the way. The service module supplies the spacecraft’s main propulsion system and power.

The outbound trip to the Moon will take several days, during which time engineers will evaluate the spacecraft’s systems. Orion will fly about 60 miles (97 kilometers) above the surface of the Moon at its closest approach, and then use the Moon’s gravitational force to propel Orion into a distant retrograde orbit, traveling about 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) past the Moon. This distance is 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers) farther than the previous record set during Apollo 13 and the farthest in space any spacecraft built for humans has flown.

For its return trip to Earth, Orion will get another gravity assist from the Moon as it does a second close flyby, firing engines at precisely the right time to harness the Moon’s gravity and accelerate back toward Earth, setting itself on a trajectory to re-enter our planet’s atmosphere.

Landing

The mission will end with a test of Orion’s capability to return safely to Earth. Orion will enter Earth’s atmosphere traveling at about 25,000 mph (40,000 kph). Earth’s atmosphere will slow the spacecraft down to a speed of about 300 mph (480 kph), producing temperatures of approximately 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 degrees Celsius) and testing the heat shield’s performance.

Once the spacecraft has passed this extreme heating phase of flight, the forward bay cover that protects its parachutes will be jettisoned. Orion’s two drogue parachutes deploy first, at 25,000 feet (7,600 meters), and within a minute slow Orion to about 100 mph (160 kph) before being released. They are followed by three pilot parachutes that pull out the three main parachutes which will slow Orion’s descent to less than 20 mph (32 kph). The spacecraft will make a precise landing within eyesight of the recovery ship off the coast of San Diego.

Recovery Operations

The Landing and Recovery Team, led by NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program at Kennedy, will be responsible for safely recovering the capsule after splashdown. The interagency landing and recovery team consists of personnel and assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, including Navy amphibious specialists and Air Force weather specialists, and engineers and technicians from Kennedy, Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Lockheed Martin Space Operations.

Before splashdown, the team will head out to sea in a Navy ship. At the direction of the NASA Recovery Director, Navy divers and other team members in several inflatable boats will be cleared to approach Orion. Divers will then attach a cable to the spacecraft and pull it by winch into a specially designed cradle inside the ship’s well deck. The vessel will transport the spacecraft and other hardware to a pier at U.S. Naval Base San Diego for transport to Kennedy.

Open water personnel will also work to recover Orion’s forward bay cover and three main parachutes. If teams are able to recover the jettisoned cover and parachutes, engineers will inspect the hardware and gather additional performance data.

Times below are based on a potential launch opportunity Aug. 29 at 8:33 a.m. Eastern. The timing of events may change if launch occurs at a time other than the opening of the two-hour launch window. All times Eastern.

Flight Day 1

8:33 a.m.: Liftoff

8:35:12 a.m. – Solid Rocket Booster separation (Mission Elapsed Time 00:02:12)

8:36:13 a.m. – Service module fairing jettison (MET 00:03:13)

8:36:19 a.m. – Launch abort system jettison (MET 00:03:19)

8:41:04 a.m. – Core stage main engine cutoff commanded (MET 00:08:04)

8:41:16 a.m. – Core Stage/ICPS separation (MET 00:08:16)

8:51:10 a.m. – Orion Solar Array Wing Deploy Begins (MET 00:18:20)

  • Approximately 12 minutes in duration(~60 miles)

9:24:22 a.m. – Perigee Raise Maneuver (MET 00:51:22)

  • 22 seconds in duration

10:11:03 a.m. – Trans-lunar injection (MET 01:38:03)

  • 17 minute, 59 second burn

11:39:10 a.m. – Orion/ICPS separation (MET 02:06:10)

11:40:31 a.m. – Upper Stage Separation Burn (MET 02:07:31)

12:03:10 p.m. – ICPS Disposal Burn (MET 03:30:10)

4:29:05 p.m. – Outbound Trajectory Correction-1 burn (MET 07:56:05)

  • First service module burn

Flight Day 2-5 – Outbound transit

Flight day 6-9 – Transit to Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO) around the Moon

  • Flight Day 6 (9/3): Outbound Powered Fly-by (burn 9:11 p.m.), Lunar Closest Approach (~60 miles)

Flight Day 10-23 – In DRO

  • Flight Day 10 (9/7): DRO Insertion (burn 8:54 a.m.)
  • Flight Day 11 (9/8): Orion passes Apollo 13 Record

Flight Day 24-34 – Exit DRO

  • Flight Day 24 (9/21): DRO Departure (burn 2:52 a.m.)
  • Flight Day 26: (9/23): Max distance from Earth

Flight Day 35-42 – Return transit

  • Flight Day 35 (10/3): Return Flyby (burn 12:06 a.m.), Second Closest Approach (~500 miles)

Flight Day 43 (10/10)- Entry and splashdown (11:53 a.m.)

Cassini’s Grand Finale orbits — the final orbits of its nearly 20-year mission — between the rings and the planet where no spacecraft has ventured before on September 15, 2017.

Pasadena, Calif. , NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CALtech – After almost 20 years in space, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft begins the final chapter of its remarkable story of exploration: its Grand Finale. In Cassini’s Grand Finale orbits — the final orbits of its nearly 20-year mission — the spacecraft travels in an elliptical path that sends it diving at tens of thousands of miles per hour through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) space between the rings and the planet where no spacecraft has ventured before.

Color illustration of Cassini diving between Saturn and its innermost ring.
In the still from the short film Cassini’s Grand Finale, the spacecraft is shown diving between Saturn and the planet’s innermost ring on April 7, 2017 Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cassini’s current position image uses real spacecraft trajectories and is updated every five minutes. Distance and velocities are updated in real-time. For a full 3D, immersive experience download NASA’s free Eyes on the Solar System app. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Each of these last 22 orbits takes about six and a half days to complete. They begin April 22 and end Sept. 15. When Cassini is nearest to Saturn during each orbit, the spacecraft’s speed ranges between 75,000 and 78,000 miles per hour (121,000 and 126,000 kilometers per hour), depending on the orbit. The Grand Finale orbits are so named because they not only carry Cassini to its end, but because they are truly grand. The spacecraft flies through an unexplored region of the Saturnian system, producing unique images and attempting to solve longtime mysteries, such as the mass of Saturn’s rings and the planet’s rotation rate — the length of a Saturn day. And then during Cassini’s last five orbits, the spacecraft dips down to directly sample Saturn’s upper atmosphere.

Cassini gazes across the icy rings of Saturn toward the icy moon Tethys, whose night side is illuminated by Saturnshine, or sunlight reflected by the planet. › Full image and caption
Cassini gazes across the icy rings of Saturn toward the icy moon Tethys, whose night side is illuminated by Saturnshine, or sunlight reflected by the planet. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The summaries posted on this page for each Grand Finale orbit include only a few highlights of the many unparalleled science investigations that Cassini performs during these unprecedented orbits. Also, because Saturn is a gas giant, Cassini can’t be described as being a certain distance from the planet’s “surface.” So, to convey Cassini’s distance from Saturn, each summary also includes the spacecraft’s closest approach to Saturn’s 1-bar level for that orbit. A bar is the atmospheric pressure you experience on Earth at sea level.

A short, animated video describing Cassini’s Grand Finale. Download ›d

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org . Cassini’s Grand Finale orbits — the final orbits of its nearly 20-year mission — the spacecraft travels in an elliptical path that sends it diving at tens of thousands of miles per hour through  space between the rings and the planet where no spacecraft has ventured before on September 15, 2017.