The first Artemis mission to the moon departs at the end of August

Space Launch System on the launch complex.

Photo: NASA

If all goes as planned, the US space agency NASA will launch a Space Launch System (SLS) lunar rocket for the first time on August 29, 2022. This important launch is part of the unmanned Artemis 1 mission, with which NASA will test whether the new rocket and the accompanying Orion space capsule could take people to the moon in the near future. The launch will take place from the Kennedy Space Center and at the end of the mission, the unmanned Orion space capsule should return safely to Earth and land on the ocean. With the Artemis program, the United States wants to bring astronauts to the moon again, including the first woman on the moon.

New moon rocket

The more than 100-meter-long rocket was assembled for the first time in recent months at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and then also rolled to the launch complex for further testing. The Space Launch System consists of a central rocket consisting of two stages with two powerful booster rockets attached to the lower rocket stage. The design of these booster rockets was also used earlier in the space shuttle program. These powerful booster rockets use a solid fuel and cannot be extinguished once these rockets are ignited. The Core Stage forms the basis of this powerful rocket and is equipped with four powerful RS-25D rocket engines, which were also used during the space shuttle space program. On top of the Core Stage is the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) that will take the Orion space capsule on its way to the moon. The assembly of the first Space Launch System (SLS) took place in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where the various parts of the Saturn V moon rockets from the Apollo program and space shuttles were also previously assembled. When both Space Launch System (SLS) boosters ignite, they produce more thrust than fourteen Boeing 747 aircraft. The entire Space Launch System (SLS) is almost 100 meters tall and will have 15% more thrust than the Saturn V moon rocket of the 1960s. While the lightest variant (Block 1) of the Space Launch System (SLS) should be able to carry payloads of up to 95 tonnes into low Earth orbit, the heaviest variant (Block 2) can carry payloads of up to 130 tonnes down in low ground orbit. bring to our planet.

Orion space capsule

During this unmanned test mission, the Space Launch System (SLS) will put the new Orion spacecraft into retrograde orbit around the moon. With this unmanned test flight, NASA wants to extensively test and evaluate the life support systems of the Orion space capsule and the associated European Service Module. The European Service Module (ESM) is the European contribution to the Orion space capsule and uses technology derived from the European Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV) that previously brought supplies to the ISS space station. The European Service Module (ESM) will supply the Orion capsule with power and fuel during its journey to the moon or back to Earth. The Orion space capsule itself was built by Lockheed Martin and can accommodate up to six astronauts. Like the Apollo space capsules, this spacecraft has a conical shape with a diameter of five meters at the base. Inside this capsule there is a living and working space of nine cubic meters, and the astronauts can use a ‘glass cockpit’, the design of which is based on the control systems on board a Boeing 787. In comparison, the Apollo capsule had a living space inside. room of 6.2 cubic meters. To ensure that the astronauts are brought to safety in the event of a problem in the first minutes of launch, the Orion space capsule was also equipped with a Launch Abort System (LAS). This is a small rocket on top of the capsule that ‘shoots’ the spacecraft away from the rocket that is currently having a problem. The Artemis I mission will last at least 26 days, after which the unmanned capsule will return to Earth. During this unmanned test flight, the Orion capsule will fly low over the lunar surface and all systems will be thoroughly tested. This test flight was supposed to take place in 2016, but was postponed several times due to problems with the new Orion space capsule and the construction of the Space Launch System (SLS). If this unmanned test flight goes smoothly and both the space capsule and the Space Launch System (SLS) prove reliable, NASA wants to put people into space for the first time in 2023 with the Space Launch System (SLS) during the Artemis 2 mission. The goal of NASA’s Artemis space program is to put humans on the moon again by 2024. By 2020, NASA had already spent $18.6 billion developing the Space Launch System (SLS), excluding the new Orion space capsule. During the Artemis 1 mission, the first Space Launch System will also launch thirteen small satellites, so-called ‘cubesats’.

Movie: Artemis 1 mission

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