On Monday, August 22, the NASA announced that everything was ready for the launch of the unmanned mission Artemis 1 next Monday, August 29. The rocket Space Launch System (SLS) will take off during a two-hour launch window that will open at 12:33 GMT.
Artemis 1 will mark the start of the Artemis Program whose objective is to bring NASA astronauts back to the Moonin the company of partner agency astronauts. The SLS rocket will launch from the Pad 39B launch pad which is located at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This will be the very first flight of the launcher which is to date the most powerful ever built.
The SLS rocket will have to send the capsule Orion around the Moon for a critical test flight, the results of which will determine the continuation of the Artemis Program. In total, the mission will last 42 days.
A historic mission
For NASA, Artemis 1 is a historic mission. It will indeed be the first time in 50 years that the space agency will send a capsule capable of carrying passengers to the Moon. The Orion capsule will also be the first spacecraft built by NASA since the end of the use of space shuttles eleven years ago.
The SLS rocket will launch from ramp 39B which was used on the mission Apollo 10 in 1969. This mission also had the objective of sending a spacecraft around the Moon. Missions skylab and Apollo-Soyuz also took off from this launch pad.
As for the Artemis 1 mission, it will take the capsule 10 days to reach lunar orbit if all goes well. The return to Earth will take place on October 10. According to Mike Sarafin, the Artemis 1 mission manager, this is the first flight of a new rocket and a new capsule. He added that they were doing something very difficult and with inherent risk.
Mission officials said they intended to “push” the Orion capsule beyond established parameters for human spaceflight. This will put the ship to the test.
A test mission
Normally, a manned Artemis mission lasts about 10 days. For Artemis 1, the duration will be 42 days to allow engineers to conduct all necessary tests. The NASA and ESA teams, which supplied the Orion service module, will thus be able to identify all problems that could arise during manned missions.
The Orion capsule will carry, among other things, a mannequin nicknamed “Moonikin” and a humanoid torso covered in sensors to measure the effects of vibrations and space radiation on the human body. Ten cubesats will also be launched by SLS to test exploration technologies.
After this mission, it will be the turn of Artemis 2 to be launched in 2024. Artemis 3 will follow in 2025 and will be the one to drop astronauts on the lunar surface using the spacecraft SpaceX Starship.
During the launch window, NASA has three chances to launch the Artemis 1 mission: August 29, September 2, and September 5. The continuation of the Artemis program will depend on the results of this first flight.