Since taking off on the Space Launch System rocket last Wednesday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft had a pretty smooth journey. But it’s far from over. As millions of Americans gear up for a long weekend with family and friends, Orion will continue its 25-day mission, including performing a critical burn on Wednesday. Six to enter a retrograde orbit around the Moon.
Orion has eight more days to go on its 25-day journey around the Moon. The capsule is the cornerstone of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon by the end of the decade and, in the long run, to make our presence there permanent. Orion’s mission was dubbed Artemis I, reflecting both the beginning of the Artemis program and the capsule that eventually went live.
The journey is not without its hiccups, although these are relatively minor. Perhaps the most serious incident occurred early this morning, when NASA unexpectedly lost data connection with the spacecraft for 47 minutes. Engineers are still working to figure out why this happened, but the data has been restored without affecting Orion.
So, what exactly does the rest of this week have in store for Orion? Yes, pretty much.
Currently, the spacecraft is on its way to a distant retrograde orbit (DRO). The orbit is so named because of its altitude above the Moon’s surface and because the orbit moves in the opposite direction to the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. DRO is considered to be highly stable, and as such, the spacecraft needs little fuel to maintain its position in orbit.
On Friday, Orion will conduct a DRO insertion igniting using the European Service Module, the power and propulsion components of a spacecraft built by the European Space Agency. The next day, Orion was set to set a new record for the farthest distance a man-made spacecraft could travel, a journey of 248,655 miles from Earth. The spacecraft will reach its maximum distance from Earth on Monday, at 268,552 miles.
Orion will be in the DRO for about a week, during which time the spacecraft systems will continue to be tested.
Mike Sarafin, Artemis’ mission director, described the April mission as a “real stress test” of the spacecraft in the deep space environment.
“Without crew on the first mission, DRO allows Orion to spend more time in deep space on a rigorous mission to secure spacecraft systems, such as guidance, navigation, communications, and communications. , power, thermal control and other systems are ready to keep astronauts safe on future crewed missions,” he said.
Beyond this point, Orion will have to conduct two more important burns, the first to depart from the DRO and the second to fire the slingshot back to the Moon and return the spacecraft to orbit. back to Earth. The epic finale will come when Orion returns to Earth. It is predicted that the capsule will experience temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit upon re-entry, and NASA needs to see that the spacecraft is ready before using it to carry astronauts later this decade. .