After months of testing, troubleshooting and repairs, the engineers began to refuel. Space Launch System moon rocket On Monday, for the explosion on a delayed test flight to send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a 42-day journey around the moon.
Just after midnight, lightning storms rolled within five nautical miles of the 39B launch pad, forcing Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson to delay the start of the propellant charge by 55 minutes. But the six-hour procedure finally began at 1:13 am EDT.
The only other issue discussed as we entered the final hours of the countdown was troubleshooting to find the cause of a momentary communication failure on one of the channels transmitting commands and telemetry to the Orion spacecraft.
It was not immediately clear what effect the refueling delay and troubleshooting might have on the scheduled 8:33 am departure time. But engineers were optimistic about getting the most powerful at some point during NASA’s long-awaited first flight, a two-hour launch window.
Loading 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and 537,000 gallons of hydrogen into the rocket’s massive core stage requires a carefully written refueling procedure. An additional 22,000 gallons of oxygen and hydrogen are required for the upper stage for a total of 750,000 gallons of propellant.
The SLS’s four shuttle-era engines and two extended-belt solid-fuel boosters will produce a ground-shaking 8.8 million pounds of thrust to propel the 5.7 million-pound rocket at Kennedy Space Center away from the 39B launcher.
part of the rocket Artemis 1 The mission will last just one hour and 36 minutes and will raise the Orion capsule and its service module provided by the European Space Agency into space, from Earth orbit and towards the moon.
After a close flight at just 60 miles, Orion will return to a distant orbit around the moon for two weeks of tests and checkups. If all goes well, the capsule will fall back to the moon for another close flyby on October 3, which will make a high-speed landing in the Pacific Ocean on October 10.
NASA plans to follow up on the Artemis 1 mission in 2024 with a flight that orbits the moon, launching four astronauts. 2025-26 timeframe.
But first, NASA must prove that the rocket and capsule will work as planned, starting with Monday’s launch of Artemis 1.
About 6.6 seconds before launch, the four RS-25 engines at the base of the core stage will ignite and throttle to full thrust, producing a combined two million pounds of thrust.
When the countdown reaches zero, commands will be sent to fire both solid rocket boosters after a computer checks to verify engine performance. Simultaneously, the signals will detonate four explosive bolts at the base of each booster, freeing the SLS from the launch pad.
Solid rocket boosters provide the lion’s share of the power needed to lift the SLS out of the dense lower atmosphere and fire for two minutes and 10 seconds before falling at an altitude of 27 miles.
The RS-25 core stepper motors will continue to ascend on their own, firing another six minutes to lift the rocket to an altitude of 87 mph.
The core stage’s RS-25 engines will fire for eight minutes, raising the ship to 87 mph before shutting down.
The flight plan called for the upper stage of the rocket, carrying the pilotless Orion capsule and the service module provided by the European Space Agency, to leave the now-empty core stage and continue to move skyward toward an altitude of about 1,100 miles, either high point or high point. apogee, its first orbit.
The engine powering the Transient Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, or ICPS, was expected to fire 51 minutes after takeoff to raise the low point of orbit, or perigee, from 20 miles to about 115.
Reaching this low point forty-five minutes after launch – one hour and 36 minutes after launch – the ICPS was programmed to fire the RL10B engine for 18 minutes, accelerating the vehicle’s speed to approximately 22,600 mph, 10 times faster than a rifle. bullet.
This is all it takes to get rid of Earth’s gravity, raising the apogee to a point in space where the moon will be in five days.
After spreading its four solar wings and leaving ICPS, the Orion capsule will go on a 60-mile flyby to the moon on September 3 and then into a “distant retrograde orbit” that carries the spacecraft 280,000 miles from Earth. — more than any previous human-grade spaceship.
The flight is the first of a series of missions aimed at establishing a permanent presence on and around the moon, with the Gateway and a lunar space station called periodic. landings near the south pole where ice deposits can be reached in cold, permanently shaded craters.
Future astronauts could “mine” this ice if it’s available and accessible, turning it into air, water and even rocket fuel, drastically reducing the cost of deep space exploration.
More generally, Artemis astronauts will undertake extended exploration and research to learn more about the origin and evolution of the Moon and to test the hardware and procedures that will be needed before sending astronauts to Mars.
The purpose of the Artemis 1 mission is to advance the Orion spacecraft step-by-step by testing its solar power, propulsion, navigation and life support systems before returning to Earth and returning to the atmosphere at 25,000 mph on October 10. Protective heat shield up to 5,000 degrees as hell.
Testing the heat shield and confirming that it can protect astronauts returning from deep space is a trick. Priority 1 of the Artemis 1 mission is a target that requires the SLS rocket to send the capsule to the moon first.
If all goes well with the Artemis 1 mission, NASA plans to launch a second SLS rocket in late 2024 to accelerate the four astronauts in a free-rotation orbit around the moon, before landing the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface. South pole in the Artemis 3 mission.
Targeted to launch in the 2025-26 timeframe, this flight depends on NASA’s availability of new spacesuits for moonwalkers and a SpaceX-built landing craft based on the design of the company’s reusable Starship rocket.
SpaceX is working on the land under a $2.9 billion contract with NASA, but the company has provided little on details or updates, and it’s not yet known when NASA and the California rocket manufacturer will actually be ready for the Artemis 3 moon landing mission. .
But if the Artemis 1 test flight is successful, NASA may be able to check the need for a super-heavy-lift rocket to take the first missions off the ground. With 8.8 million pounds of takeoff thrust, 15 percent more than the Saturn 5, the SLS rocket is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA.
Congress ordered NASA to build the rocket after the space shuttle’s 2011 retirement, requiring the agency to use remaining shuttle components and existing technology wherever possible to keep costs low.
But management errors and technical issues have caused delays and billions in cost overruns. According to NASA’s Inspector General, the US space agency “is expected to spend $93 billion on Artemis (lunar program) by fiscal year 2025.”
“We also estimate the current production and operational cost of a single Artemis 1 to 4 SLS/Orion system at $4.1 billion per launch, although the Agency’s ongoing efforts to improve affordability seek to reduce this cost.”
Among the reasons listed as contributing to the astronomical price tag of the SLS: the use of single-source, cost-plus contracts “and the fact that all components, with the exception of the Orion capsule, subsystems, and supporting launch facilities, are expendable and “single” unlike commercial spaceflight systems that have emerged. use it.”
In stark contrast to SpaceX’s commitment to fully reusable rockets, everything but the Orion crew capsule is discarded after a single use. As SpaceX founder Musk likes to point out, it’s like flying a 747 jumbo jet from New York to Los Angeles and then launching the plane.
“It’s a concern,” NASA inspector general Paul Martin said in an interview with CBS News. “It’s a disposable, disposable system, unlike some multi-use launch systems on the commercial side of the house. It’s a disposable system. And so the $4.1 billion per flight. ..is of such interest to us in our reports. We said we saw it as unsustainable.”
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