For NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the next stop is home.
The uncrewed spacecraft flying on NASA’s Artemis 1 mission achieved a major milestone in its mission today (December 5) when it managed to burn out the engine in 207 seconds while in just 128 kilometers above the lunar surface. The maneuver put Orion on track to return home, where it will dive into the Pacific Ocean on December 11, if all goes as planned.
And during a media conference call on Monday, Dec. 5, Orion space mission officials claimed that so far, that’s exactly how it’s going. “Everything this vehicle was asked to do, it did. And it did phenomenally,” said Judd Frieling, flight director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC).
Related: Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft completes crucial moon flyby for return trip
Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington, spoke more poetically on the teleconference about the incredible feats Orion has already accomplished, such as breaking the distance record for human-rated spacecraft. previously set by Apollo 13. “We were able to see the Earth transiting behind the moon extending beyond the limit of human spaceflight. the first time in the Artemis generation,” Sarafin said. told reporters. “When we’re done with this mission, we’ll have covered over 1.4 million miles in the 26-day mission. And we’re well on our way to doing that.”
That’s not to say that every aspect of Orion’s maiden voyage is going well. Mission leaders also discussed a pair of anomalies experienced by the spacecraft in recent days, including a communications failure and a anomaly with an electrical network aboard Orion.
Mission leaders described during tonight’s teleconference how a site-wide outage at the Deep Space Network site in Goldstone, Calif., caused a four-and-a-half-hour outage in communication between controllers at the ground and Orion. Fortunately, the outage was caused by a hardware issue at the ground station and not by Orion hardware, allowing teams to quickly re-establish contact.
Additionally, a power conditioning distribution unit aboard Orion malfunctioned on Sunday, December 4, cutting power to four devices responsible for the vehicle’s propulsion and heating subsystems. However, power was quickly restored and NASA written in a statement (opens in a new tab) that the power supply to Orion’s critical systems, navigation or communication systems, has never been interrupted.
“We talked about it today, as a mission management team, and the spacecraft is fine. There’s a lot of redundancy on the vehicle,” Sarafin said today of the anomaly. Powerful. “And that, combined with the quick work of our operational teams, really had no impact on the mission and no concerns there.”
Even the Callisto voice-activated digital assistant aboard Orion is working well, according to Debbie Korth, deputy director of the Orion program at JSC. “First of all, in terms of the performance so far, it’s been really great,” Korth said of Callisto. “I was able to attend many of the sessions – very, very interactive, very engaging, in terms of being able to talk to the spacecraft, turn the lights on and off, write notes or play music, ask questions. It’s just a really, really good engagement opportunity and I think it has some potential for how we could use it more.”
There are still some tests to be performed while Orion’s test flight is still underway, but so far the mission is going so well that mission managers are now eagerly awaiting the next “pre-decision gate”. -planned” which will take place on Thursday (December 8) when a landing site off the coast of California is selected for Orion’s landing on December 11.
A complex range of factors, including wind speed, wave height and wave period (the time between waves) will be taken into consideration to determine where in the Pacific Ocean to land Orion. NASA and US Navy teams are already coordinating ahead of the recovery operation which will see Orion fished out to sea and brought back to shore for analysis.
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