Mission Artemis 1: After a slingshot lunar flyby, NASA's Orion returns to Earth

Mission Artemis 1: After a slingshot lunar flyby, NASA’s Orion returns to Earth


Orion completed its flyby, engaging the spacecraft in a December 11 immersion in the Pacific Ocean.

Image: NASA

On his 19th dayIn space, NASA’s Artemis I Orion spacecraft made its final pass on the moon 80.6 miles from the lunar surface en route to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, expected in days.

Almost everything went to plan on Monday as Mission Control in Houston set the stage for Orion’s return, propelled by a lunar flyby burn, where it flew close enough to the Moon to use its gravity to ” slingshot” to Earth. Splashdown is scheduled for Sunday, December 11.

The powered hover burn was Orion’s last major engine maneuver on this mission and used ESA’s service module for a burn that took 3 minutes and 27 seconds to change its speed from approximately 655 mph ( 961 feet per second).

As of 5:29 p.m. CST on Dec. 5, Orion was 244,629 miles from Earth and 16,581 miles from the Moon, cruising at 668 mph.

Also: What is Artemis? Everything you need to know about NASA’s new moon mission

Orion will enter Earth’s atmosphere traveling at 2,500 mph, then slow to 300 mph before its parachutes open and slow its speed to around 20 mph before splashdown on Sunday.

“Orion is going home!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a Monday evening update.

“When Orion re-enters Earth’s atmosphere in just a few days, it will return hotter and faster than ever – the ultimate test before boarding astronauts.”

The landing and recovery teams are led by a joint US Navy and NASA team and will now depart on a ship from Naval Base San Diego. NASA decided on Monday that they would leave on December 7, according to Nelson.

The Pentagon’s contribution to recovery teams includes US Navy amphibious specialists and Air Force weather specialists, as well as engineers and technicians from Kennedy, Johnson Space Center in Houston and Lockheed Martin Space. Operations.

Divers and engineers, deployed off the ship on smaller boats, will meet Orion and attach a “winch line” to Orion to pull him over the ship to a cradle on the ship’s well deck where he will be secured . They will also aim to collect the three main parachutes from Orion’s forward bay cover before they are all returned to Naval Support Activity San Diego for materiel inspection and data collection.

Also: Mission Artemis: No astronauts on the Orion spacecraft, but some unusual passengers

Beyond several false starts for the launch of the Artemis I Space Launch System, almost everything went according to plan, with the exception of an unplanned 47-minute communications blackout on November 23.

Nelson on Monday detailed another unplanned four-hour communications outage on Saturday, this time due to an equipment failure at the Deep Space Network (DSN) Goldstone ground station complex in California’s Mojave Desert. The other two NASA DSN complexes on Earth are in Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia.

“It was a site-wide outage at Goldstone due to some of the hardware used to deal with the angles of the site and antenna. This was recovered last night, but on Saturday we had a communication blackout of four and a half hours”, said Nelson.

“Originally, when we learned of the Goldstone outage, we thought it could have been up to eight hours and possibly more than a day. But because of our friends in other Mars programs, in Perseverance and the Trace Gas Orbiter close to their time Deep Space Network, and also through the operations team and the Deep Space Network team working to mitigate the site outage, we only saw one four and a half hour outage on Saturday.”

NASA determined the cause of the failure during power system testing while investigating a recurrence of a problem with the “latching current limiter,” which protects satellite power systems. Shortly after setting up the test, he found that four of the supply current limiters had tripped and dropped some of the downstream equipment.

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