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Artemis Space Launch: Back to the Moon after Fifty Years

(NASA Official still/Picture)


According to NASA, this week, The Artemis will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a six-week mission around the moon and back to Earth. During #Artemis I, Orion will lift off aboard the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and travel 280,000 miles (450,000 km) from Earth and 40,000 miles (64,000 km) beyond the far side of the moon, carrying science and technology payloads to expand our understanding of lunar science, technology developments, and deep space radiation.’ 


The liftoff is from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 12:30 BST today.


NASA hopes that ‘through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of colour on the Moon.’


The rocket does not contain astronauts for now but replica dummy-like robots that will show how the trip back to the moon might affect Astronauts since we have not been back there as humans for fifty years.


As well as the important testing equipment dummies, Moonikin Campos, Helga and Zohar, a time-capsule with some things like ‘ Snoopy, Girl Scout badges, LEGO minifigures and tree seeds are just some of the thousands of mementos that will be aboard.’ 


The Manikin, as it has been called, is named Campos after the engineer, Arturo Campos, who saved the crew of the Apollo thirteen rocket after there were difficulties. He recognised the error that came up in testing the electrical systems inside the spacecraft and was the manager of the subsystem inside the lunar module in 1970. 


When there was a fuel cell explosion and an oxygen tank leak with Apollo thirteen, he found a quick and economising solution to save the depleting fuel and bring the crew back unharmed. 


Commander Moonikin Campos will have two testing dummies named Helga, after Germany’s Aerospace centre, and Zohar, for Israel’s Space Agency (ISA). 


Zohar will be testing an AstroRad vest designed by ISA scientists and engineers at Stemrad, Israel, to protect vital organs from dangerous radiation, with Helga as control with no protection other than the usual flight suit. 


"Zohar will wear a radiation protection vest, called AstroRad, while Helga will not," NASA said in a description of the manikins' duties. "The study will provide valuable data on radiation levels astronauts may encounter on lunar missions and evaluate the effectiveness of the protective vest that could allow crew to exit the storm shelter and continue working on critical mission activities in spite of a solar storm." according to another article on NPR.Org.

‘Helga and Zohar are what NASA calls phantoms — or manikin torsos made up of materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues and adult female organs. A big part of their mission involves radiation detection and measurement.’


Previously, the astronauts were only men, and it is not currently known how space travel will affect women,  which is why both female-shaped dummies are vital to understanding this mission.

The official space launch countdown is being live-streamed globally via NASA’s official Youtube channel.


 The Floridian weather lead to thoughts of delay amid concerns because the launchpad was struck with lightning though it was confirmed by NASA via an article on the planned launch from NPR.    


‘Officials said Sunday that neither the rocket nor capsule suffered any damage during Saturday's thunderstorm; ground equipment also was unaffected. Five lightning strikes were confirmed, hitting the 600-foot (183-meter) towers surrounding the rocket at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The strikes weren't strong enough to warrant major retesting.’


NASA Feed Updates state there had been a technical issue with some spilt nitrogen coolant earlier. Engineers have been checking with one of the engines, pausing the countdown at forty minutes to launch for now while they assess the rocket.


‘engineers are troubleshooting an issue conditioning one of the RS-25 engines (engine 3) on the bottom of the core stage. Launch controllers condition the engines by increasing pressure on the core stage tanks to bleed some of the cryogenic propellant to the engines to get them to the proper temperature range to start them. Engine 3 is not properly being conditioned through the bleed process, and engineers are troubleshooting.’


The launch may be postponed to the second of September, as the update mentioned that the ongoing issue with the engine temperature is still happening. 


‘Teams are in a hold in the countdown at T-40 minutes while engineers evaluate why the bleed test to condition the engines was not successful. Engineers are looking at options to gather as much data as possible. The Artemis I rocket and spacecraft are in a stable, safe condition.’


Each launch costs US$1.5 billion dollars, so it is beneficial that the launch has been delayed. They have decided to officially re-try launch whenever the next launch window might be, as well as the safest option.


(Artemis’ possible launch dates in green, with red ones being against flight regulation on a path to the moon, and the grey ones where it is completely unsuitable, via NASA’s Artemis flight list windows post)


On August 29th, a more clarifying interview was done live with a Questions and Answers style. 


Here are some excerpts of that from the interview at Kennedy Space Centre.


“Good afternoon, and welcome to NASA's Kennedy space centre. I'm NASA’s press secretary, Jackie McGinnis. And today, you'll hear an update from NASA leadership. Following the scrub of the Artemis one launch this morning, after the team encountered an issue getting one of the four RS 25 engines to the proper temperature for liftoff earlier in the countdown, teams were able to troubleshoot an issue related to a hydrogen spike.”


“While filling the core stage, tanks and the rocket remains in a safe configuration as teams. Assess the next steps here to talk with us today about today's operations and the path forward. Our NASA administrator, Bill Nelson, Artemis mission manager, Mike Serafin, an associate administrator for the exploration systems development mission directorate Jim Free.”


“After the mission management team meets tomorrow to review data and discuss a path. We'll also hold a tele teleconference to keep you updated. We'll take questions from those of you in the room and over the phone. And if you're joining us on the phone, please press star one to enter the queue. First, I'll hand it over to administrator Nelson.”


“I am very proud of this launch team. They have solved several problems along the way, and they got to one that needed time to be solved. I am very grateful to you all for your patience. This is a brand-new rocket. It's not gonna fly until it's ready. There are millions of components of this rocket and its systems. -and, needless to say, the complexity is daunting when you bring it all into the focus of a count. You all, no doubt, have been up for some period of time, our remarks are gonna be short, and we will open it up for your questions. I wanna say that the vice president was here. She was pumped the entire time.”


“She is very bullish on our space program and on this particular. Program of going back to the moon and going to Mars. We had her meet with assembled guests. We had her meet with members of Congress that were here. She toured the OC building and saw the Artemis hardware there.”


“Overall, she had a very productive visit, and I would expect that you will see her at a future launch. I want to say that understand that scrubs are just a part of this program, on the space flight that I participated in. Hoot Gibson, the commander, 36 and a half years ago. We scrubbed four times on the pad.”


“It was the better part of a month. And looking back had we, after the fifth try, got off to a perfect mission. it would've not been a good day. Had we launched on any one of those four scrubs? So when you're dealing in a high-risk business and space flight is risky. That's what you do. You buy down that risk; you make it as safe as possible.”


“-And of course, that is the whole reason for this test flight to stress it and to test it, to make sure it's as safe as possible. When Artemis two, when we put humans, In the spacecraft. So for the details, let me turn it over to Mike Sarafi.” 


“Well, good afternoon. It's been a very dynamic forty-eight hours since I was last here to talk to you.”


“The technical issues that the team has worked through, they've, they've overcome a number of them, but we ran into one that we need a little more time to look at, but the spaceport America's spaceport has been very dynamic. We watched. Launch control centre, a new spacecraft and a new rocket come to life.”


“-And we watched the media show up. We watched thousands of visitors show up in America to watch this new activity. So it's been very dynamic forty-eight hours. Since we had our launch minus two-day mission management team meeting, the operations team outta the launch control centre entered their launch countdown. Saturday morning. And then, Saturday afternoon, we had a couple of lightning strikes on at the pad. We have a Thirty-two-story, tall rocket out there, and there were lightning strikes on towers one and two. Our technical teams very quickly resolved that there were no issues with the vehicle through timely analysis and timely data assessment Saturday.”


 “Saturday afternoon, we also closed out an action from the launch minus two-day mission management team, which was to re-verify our communications coverage associated with some late changes that we had with the rocket and the spacecraft. And the team got comfortable with the communications coverage plan.”


“And then, Sunday was largely a day of rest and a day of preparation for the team. And late Sunday evening, a subset of the team came in for the tanking meeting, myself and our launch director, Charlie Blackwell Thompson, and our propulsive elements came in at, ten fifty, this evening or the prior evening.”


“And we reassessed the readiness to load the vehicle with cryogenic oxygen. And, we were go for that. We had a go weather forecast, which was a twenty percent chance of lightning, forty percent chance of precipitation throughout the cryo loading period. Right around that same timeframe, the team encountered an issue with the verification of the Orion flight software.”


“It took about eleven minutes to have a command acknowledged to help verify the flight software. And it was a simple misconfiguration, one of the command and control modules was not activated. The team quickly resolved that, and then once they configured it, they quickly worked through the software verification.”


“And there were no concerns at that point with the Orion, software verification. , the tanking meaning itself was very clean. , we were done in thirty minutes, and we gave the go for tanking.  Shortly thereafter, the Kennedy space centre went into a lightning alert and the tanking was delayed for about an hour.”


“And then, once the cry (Cryongenic) loading started, we started the loading of the hydrogen, the team quickly, encountered a hydrogen leak at the eight inch quick disconnect, which is our fill and drain. -and that happened when they went into the fast fill phase. So they had to slow down the loading operation.”


“They chilled down that interface, and they managed to work their way through the full cry (Cryogenic)  loading operation of both the core stage as well as the upper stage successfully.  Once we got through the propellant loading on the rocket, both the core stage and the upper stage. They started the engine bleed.”


“We talked at our flight readiness review about the engine bleed. We knew that that was a risk headed into this launch campaign and it would be the first time demonstrating that successfully. Uh, we did encounter an issue, uh, uh, chilling down engine number three, we need the engine to. At the, uh, cryogenically cool temperature, such that when it starts, it's not shocked with all the, the cold fuel that flows through it.”


So we needed a little extra time to assess that; when the team started working through that, they also saw an issue with a vent valve at the intertank. So the combination of not being able to get engine three chilled. And then the, uh, vent valve, uh, issue that they saw at the inter tank really caused us to pause today.” (As of the original launch date, August 28th)


“And we felt like we needed a little more time. There was also a series of weather issues throughout the window. We would've been no go for weather at the beginning of the window due to precipitation. And, later on in the window, we would've been no go for lightning within the launchpad area.”


“So, the team worked through a number of issues today. The team was tired at the end of the day, and we just decided that it was the best to knock it off and to reconvene tomorrow. So we've got a, mission management team meeting at three PM Eastern. We're gonna give the team time to rest, first of all, and then come back fresh tomorrow and reassess what we learned today and then develop a series of options.”


“It's too early to say what the options. And then Jackie said earlier, we will come back and talk about where we stand, tomorrow evening with all of you. Again, it's an incredibly hard business that we have, in spite of the challenges that we had, as well as some other constraints that the team had to work through and set up for.”


“For example, we had Fourty-two collision avoidance cutouts that we had to manage over the course of the of the two-hour window. Most of those were only a couple of seconds long, but there were a few that were about a minute long. You know, when you start thinking about the type of mission that were flying, it, it really helps you understand just how unique and how complex the space launch system is and the Orion and the Artemis program.”


“We, we have this upper stage, the interim crowd propulsion stage that lofts the, um, the spacecraft to a nine hundred and seventy-five nautical mile insertion orbit, along with the, the SLS core stage. And with that, we need the performance from it, but we fly through part of the orbital debris field, the micro meteor in the orbital debris field.”


“And then, one orbit later, we commit to the point of TransU injection. So as we fly up through this orbital,  and then back down to lower orbit and then out through the point of transplant injection, we have to know where all these objects are, and that explains those Fourty-two cutouts. And, that is something that our operations teams were prepared to do today.”


“We just didn't get to the launch window. So, a number of challenges- we were ready for some of them and the technical challenges we encountered on theon the engine bleed. And the vent valve is just some things we're gonna have to go look at tomorrow after we get a little smarter and get rested.”


“So. with that. I'll pass it to Jim.”


“Yeah. So good afternoon. So the administrator and Mike covered a great deal of things. I'll just highlight a few things for me. You know, I sit in a different vantage point, than Mike does. His is a lot more fun by the way. But we're in the, LCC (Building), and I found some things in the team today.”


“This was a really important attempt for us. We talked about that after wet dress four, and there were a lot of questions. You know, should we have rolled back, tried to do another test? Uh, we, we felt, and, and still feel like going for today was the right thing to do. Um, and, and that, that comes in in a a few ways.”


“Our launch team was really, I'll say, pushed today. They were working on a lot of issues. They were looking at the compressed timeline with that hold at the beginning. And we were filling all four tanks. At the same time, at one point, really pushing our team through a timeline, weather, you know, Mike talked about some of the weather we talked about lightning weather was coming in and out.”


“We were actually not able to go at the beginning of the window like we thought, there was a lot of coms from the launch weather officer, the hydrogen outta spec that Mike talked about when we went to manual. That's something we did on the locks when we, uh, we had some issues, loading locks, the first time going to that manual control to me is learning.”


“Getting through the first hydrogen leak that we had was the same leak we had on the same line to the same level and when we started, to do the manual fast fill, honestly it kept climbing, and I thought, there's no way we're gonna get out of this. And that got us out of it. So, so to me, what we push the team through, and I know we always get a lot of talking about the team too much, but we continue to learn.”


“That's what we're doing. We're testing. I think, Bob Cabana said it we're testing the people and the processes. So we put ourselves through a compressed timeline. We're gonna get some shorter launch windows. We'll have to deal with where these skills will help us. I know you've heard from Charlie about extending our,timeline about an hour earlier to give us time to work things. I think that helped us today to work on things, and frankly, engine three that Mike talked about, we definitely didn't get down to the temperature we wanted, but the other four weren't as low as we would like to. So, so there are some things going on that, um, the teams were, the team needs to go off and look at the data and understand.”


“How this is different from what we did during the green run and then figure out a path forward, which is ultimately where we want to go. We're not gonna have all the data and the implications today. I'll reiterate, what Mike said, but we felt we owed it to you to share everything that we know.”


So, um, and I can assure you, there was no other group of folks, not just the first folks that worked last, but the folks that started this countdown, there's no other group that wanted to get through this successfully than those people. So with that, I'll turn it back to Jackie.”


“thanks, Jim.”


“Marsha Dunn, associated press probably for you, Mike-or Jim is there is Friday or Monday even feasible since you're dealing with an engine and, might unique to replace the session.”


“Could this be a problem unique to this, but I guess not since you said that you didn't get the temperatures on any of them that you were looking for; I'm just wondering what could be the worst case.” (scenario.) 


“Yeah, Mike, go ahead. I'll add on, yeah. Friday is definitely in play. We just need a little bit of time to look at the data, but the team is setting up for a Ninety, ninety-six hour recycle.”


“So they're still holding in the launch countdown configuration, and we're preserving the option for Friday. They're replenishing the commodities out at the audit at launch complex 39 B. You'll see some of those activities. And, right now, the indications don't point to an engine problem. It's in the bleed system, the thermal conditions, the engines.”


“We did change the diameter of that from where we did the green run testing to here. And, we never fully got into the engine bleed configuration, through the prior wet dress attempts. Again, that was something that we talked about at the agency flight readiness review.”


“As a known risk to our launch campaign. And at that time, we said we would not launch unless we got through the demonstration of our ability to thermally condition the engines; we need that in order to start the engines and run them successfully. So, we just didn't get there today.”


“And, again, this really points towards an engine bleed. Uh, uh, issue on the, on the core stage side, not on the, not on the engine interface side. So I don't know, Jim, if you have anything to add to that.” 


“Yeah. I  just (need to) add, we actually stayed, loaded longer to try and figure it out, so that we were trying to save, as many cycles on the tank as we can, as we could.”


“So, I think we tried to; I'll say, run it to ground as fast as we could. And once we were outside seeing we could launch and, and the way the pressure and the tank was going, it's like, Hey, it's better just to stop and regroup and stay in the ninety-six hour that Mike talked about and figure it out. Did you make the diameter bigger or smaller when you made the change before, so you did make it bigger.”


“Yes. And we also did it. And you'll hear more from John Honeycutt on this. Probably tomorrow is we also, where we did the test in the flow is, uh, a little bit different than we did when all of those decisions were made, um, hoping for the, uh, the benefit of physics that went with all that from, from the expert's opinion.”


“So that's what we have to figure out.”


For now, it looks like the Rocket’s launch has been postponed until NASA is confident that the Rocket has a high chance of getting into orbit and going to the moon safely to get all the new data they need for future missions, perhaps to revisit the moon with people or even other planets, like Mars…    

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