NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion capsule is exceeding expectations in deep space and remains on target to fly past the moon on Monday (Nov. 21), agency officials said.
The Artemis 1 mission launched on Wednesday morning (November 16), unmanned Orion was sent to the moon on top of a giant ship. Space launch system (SLS) rocket. This is Orion’s first trip beyond Earth orbit, but the capsule checks the boxes like a veteran, mission team members said.
“Orion has performed exceptionally well so far,” NASA Orion vehicle integration manager Jim Geffre said during a press briefing Friday (Nov. 18) afternoon. “All systems exceed expectations in terms of performance.”
Related: Stunning images from the debut of NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar rocket (photos)
live updates🇧🇷 NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission
Orion will arrive month skimming just 81 miles (130 kilometers) above the dusty gray surface at 7:44 a.m. EST (1244 GMT) on Monday (Nov. 21). The mission plan calls for the capsule to fire the engine for a crucial 2.5 minutes during this close approach, a maneuver that will set the stage for entering lunar orbit four days later.
Artemis 1 team members will decide on this “powerful flying burn” after a meeting on Saturday (November 19). At this point, it would be surprising if they changed the plan.
“Right now, we’re looking good and we’re ready to continue executing,” Artemis 1 Flight Director Jeff Radigan said during a briefing Friday.
That’s not to say the flight went perfectly. Thirteen anomalies, or “funny,” have been detected so far in Orion’s cruise, mission team members said Friday.
One such problem was a series of erratic readings from the Orion star trackers that the capsule used for navigation. This confused the team at first, but they eventually determined that viewers were dazzled by the glow from Orion’s thrusters during the burns. Once the cause was determined, the team was able to overcome the problem because they had 12 other funny things, all of which were minor flaws.
For some, the problems may be more serious 10 cubic meters launched on Artemis 1 like rideshare payloads. Although they all deployed from the SLS upper stage as planned, only five are behaving as expected, Artemis 1 mission manager Mike Sarafin said during a briefing.
ArgoMoon, BioSentinel, Equuleus, LunaH-Map and OMOTENASHI are “on the path to success,” Sarafin said.
The other five – LunIR, Lunar IceCube, NEA Scout, CuSP and Team Miles – “either experienced technical problems after deployment, or had intermittent communication or, in one case, did not receive a signal with the communications asset as planned,” he added.
Sarafin stressed that he and other Artemis 1 team members don’t have the best or most up-to-date information about it. cubesare independent spacecraft operated by different groups. For example, OMOTENASHI is a small Japanese probe that aims to drop a 2.2-pound (1-kilogram) lander on the surface of the Moon.
Sarafin also revealed that Artemis 1’s mobile launch tower was slightly damaged by the SLS. the most powerful missile successfully launched🇧🇷
For example, pressure waves generated by the SLS’s 8.8 million pounds of thrust blew out the blast doors of the tower’s elevators during Wednesday’s liftoff, a first for the giant rocket. (Orion had one flight under its belt before Artemis 1, a test flight to Earth orbit on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2014.)
This is no surprise; The team expected SLS to knock the tower around a bit, Sarafin said. Technicians have not yet fully assessed the condition of the launch tower, but they are working on it.
“The team is very careful to get full system status for the mobile launcher and they are working on it,” Sarafin said.
If all goes according to plan with Monday’s flyby burn, Orion will be set for another major engine launch in November. 25. This will put the capsule into retrograde orbit around the Moon and take Orion to within 40,000 miles (64,000 km) of the lunar surface.
The capsule will remain in that orbit until December. 1, when it will undergo another burn to send it back to Earth. Orion will bounce gently under parachutes in December. 11 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, if all goes according to plan.
Mike Wall is the author of “There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter. @michaeldwall (opens in new tab)🇧🇷 Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab)🇧🇷
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