NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission will lift off a month from today (July 29), if all goes according to plan.
The agency is working on an August 29 launch for Artemis 1who will use a Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket to send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a weeks-long mission around the moon and back.
This target date, however, is not set in stone; the Artemis 1 team must meet a variety of checks and other milestones to get there. Indeed, August 29 is just one of three “fictitious” dates for an upcoming Artemis 1 launch window, along with September 2 and 5. NASA officials said (opens in a new tab). (A formal goal will likely be set a week or two before this window opens.)
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission explained in photos
As its name suggests, Artemis 1 will be NASA’s first mission Artemis program of lunar exploration, which aims to establish a permanent human presence on and around the moon in the late 2020s. This will be the first flight for the powerful but long-delayed SLS and the second for Orion, which successfully completed a rapid test flight to Earth orbit in 2014.
NASA has been preparing for Artemis 1 for months now. For example, the agency deployed the SLS-Orion stack to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39B in Florida in mid-March, two weeks before a “wet-suited rehearsal,” a crucial series of tests. which included a simulated SLS launch and refueling countdown.
However, technical problems scuttled this attempt and the Artemis 1 stack was removed from the rig and returned to KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in late April for repairs.
These fixes took about a month. The SLS and Orion were brought back to the cushion in early June for another crack on the wet dress, which began on June 18. Technicians noticed a hydrogen leak during refueling operations on June 20, but were able to get past it, and the mission team members eventually declared the rehearsal a success.
The Artemis 1 stack returned to VAB for further inspection and maintenance on July 2 and still remains there, prepared for its imminent liftoff.
Artemis 1 is a deconfinement cruise designed primarily to show that SLS and Orion are ready to transport astronauts, but the mission also has secondary objectives. For example, 10 cubesats will hitch a ride on the huge lunar rocket. These tiny spacecraft will perform a variety of off-Earth work, from hunting water on the moon to solar navigation to an asteroid to testing the impact of deep space radiation on cells. yeast.
Artemis 1 will be a long mission, but the exact duration depends on the launch date, thanks to orbital dynamics. For example, launches on August 29 or September 5 would result in a 42-day mission, but liftoff on September 2 would kick off a 39-day flight. Either way, Orion will return to Earth for a parachute-assisted ocean dive.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).