NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Makes Close Flyby of the Moon and Heads on to Orbit
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The unmanned Artemis I mission of NASA’s Orion spacecraft has successfully made it past the Moon. The spacecraft’s engines were fired to get it within 131 kilometers (81 miles) of the lunar surface, and it is currently operating with a high degree of precision.
Yesterday, on November 21st, the spacecraft completed its closest flyby by carrying out an outbound powered flyby burn. This brought the spacecraft to its closest approach to the target. In a news conference, Judd Frieling, a flight director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, stated that all of the engines “worked wonderfully.” [Citation needed] After performing three burns to correct the trajectory, the spacecraft has now used all three types of thrusters that it is equipped with. These include the large engine that is part of the orbital maneuvering system, the small thrusters that are part of the reaction control system, and the medium-sized auxiliary engines.
Now that it has completed its mission, Orion is continuing onward to its next destination, which is a distant retrograde orbit beyond the Moon where it will spend around one week. This will be accomplished by the spacecraft carrying out a second engine burn on November 25th, which will propel it to a distance of around 57,000 miles beyond the Moon. After then, it will enter an orbit that will take it around the Moon in the opposite direction that the Moon orbits around the Earth. This will cause it to proceed in a counterclockwise direction.
Orion is able to maintain its position in this somewhat distant orbit for around one week due to the little amount of fuel that is required to do so. During this period, Orion’s systems will be put through a series of tests to determine whether or not they are prepared for an upcoming crewed mission known as Artemis II.
According to NASA, the spacecraft has used 76 pounds less fuel than was anticipated; as a result, it has a little bit more room to maneuver for the remainder of the mission.
Additionally, the findings of NASA’s investigation into the launch of the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket that took place the previous week were made public.
During a news briefing, Artemis I mission manager Mike Sarafin stated that the findings were so shocking that they brought tears to the audience’s eyes. “The rocket either lived up to or well surpassed our expectations.” He went on to explain that all the outcomes were either as predicted or off by less than 0.3 percent, but that none of the results were unexpected.
But there was a problem with the Space Launch System’s mobile launcher, and it couldn’t get off the ground. When the rocket is resting on the ground, it receives its power and fuel from a structure known as the mobile launcher. This construction consists of a base and a tower. During launch, it acquired considerable discoloration and sustained some damage. “The mobile launcher itself has a little bit of damage to it,” Sarafin added, “but it will be ready to fly the crewed launch on Artemis II.” [Crewed launch] “The mobile launcher itself has a little bit of damage to it,” The area around the mobile launcher deck was damaged as a result of being struck by exhaust from the boosters that reached around 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature.
There was some damage to an elevator in the tower, despite the fact that the majority of the deck was guarded by mechanisms that were supposed to keep the hardware safe. “At that time, we had the most powerful rocket in the world, and the pressure more or less blasted the doors off of our elevators,” Sarafin explained. “At this time, the elevators are not in working order.”
There was also some damage to the pneumatic lines, and an investigation found one piece of silicon material called RTV from the Orion spacecraft on the pad. According to the findings of the investigation, this RTV material could have come loose either during the launch of the Orion spacecraft or during Hurricane Nicole, which had previously caused some damage to the spacecraft.
Officials have stated that the problems that were found with the ground system were quite small and that they will be possible to be fixed before the next launch of the Space Launch System for the Artemis II mission, which is presently slated for the year 2024. The mission of Artemis I will continue until the 11th of December, at which point the spacecraft will detonate in the ocean.
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