‘Exceeding expectations’ – Orion spacecraft makes first inspection

‘Exceeding expectations’ – Orion spacecraft makes first inspection

On the third day of the Artemis I mission, Orion maneuvered its solar arrays and imaged the Moon with a camera mounted at the end of the array. The spacecraft is now halfway to the moon. credit:[{” attribute=””>NASA

On the third day of its Artemis I journey, NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft is now more than halfway to the Moon.

“Today, we met to review the Orion spacecraft performance, and it is exceeding performance expectations,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager.

Flight controllers used Orion’s cameras on Friday to inspect the crew module thermal protection system and European Service Module. This was the first of two planned external evaluations for the spacecraft. Teams conducted this survey early in the mission to provide detailed images of the spacecraft’s external surfaces after it has flown through the portion of Earth’s orbit where the majority of space debris resides.

The second inspection is required during the return phase to assess the overall condition of the spacecraft several days before re-entry. During both inspections, the Integrated Communications Officer, or INCO, commands cameras on the four solar array wings to take still images of the entire spacecraft, allowing experts to pinpoint any micrometeoroid or orbital debris strikes. The team in mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will review the imagery following the survey.

Artemis All Access is your look at the latest on Artemis I, the people and technology behind the mission, and what’s next. This unmanned flight test around the Moon will pave the way for a manned flight test and future human lunar exploration as part of Artemis. Credit: NASA

Over the past few days, a team evaluated anomalous star tracking data that correlated with thruster firings. Star trackers are sensitive cameras that take pictures of the star field around Orion. By comparing the photos to the built-in star map, the star tracker can determine which way Orion is oriented. The teams now understand the readings and there are no operational changes.

NASA also received updates from teams associated with the 10 CubeSats that were delivered into space on a ring attached to the upper stage of the Space Launch System rocket. All 10 CubeSats were successfully deployed via a timer from the adapter. Individual CubeSats missions are separate from Artemis I. The small satellites, each about the size of a shoebox, are inherently high-risk, high-reward, and the teams are in various stages of mission operations or troubleshooting in some cases.

NASA hosted a briefing (see video embedded below) on Friday introducing Orion’s arrival in the lunar sphere of influence. To follow the mission in real time, you can Orion track during your mission around the moon and back and check NASA TV program for updates on upcoming TV events. The first episode of Artemis All Access is now available (watch the video embedded above) as a recap of the first three days of the mission with a look ahead to what’s to come.

From NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA visualized the Orion spacecraft’s entry into the Moon’s sphere of influence and the pair of maneuvers that will propel the spacecraft into a far retrograde lunar orbit. Participants in the briefing include:

  • Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, NASA Headquarters
  • Jeff Radigan, Flight Director, NASA Johnson
  • Jim Geffre, Orion Vehicle Integration Manager, NASA Johnson

Orion’s entry into the lunar sphere of influence will make the Moon, rather than the Earth, the primary gravitational force acting on the spacecraft. Flight controllers will perform an outbound powered flyby to harness the pull of the Moon’s gravity, accelerate the spacecraft and direct it into a distant retrograde orbit beyond the Moon. During the outbound powered flyby, Orion will make its closest approach – approximately 80 miles – above the lunar surface. Four days later, another burn using the European Service Module will put Orion into a distant retrograde orbit, where it will remain for about a week to test the spacecraft’s systems.

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