Orion capsule nears lunar flyby – Spaceflight Now

A camera mounted on one of the Orion spacecraft’s solar array wings captured this view of the capsule during an external inspection on November 18. Photo credit: NASA

Nearly five days after a sky-lighting launch, NASA’s unmanned Orion crew capsule closed in on the moon on Sunday, on course for a critical rocket launch and a lunar flyby on Monday to put the craft into a distant orbit. The goal is to pave the way for a manned lunar orbit in 2024.

NASA managers met Saturday and directed flight controllers to continue the Orion drive-by maneuver, which lasts two and a half minutes and fires the spacecraft’s main engine, starting at 7:44 a.m. EST Monday, about 19 minutes after the capsule follows the moon on a left-to-right trajectory as seen from Earth.

The burn will change Orion’s speed by about 350 miles per hour, making the ship’s flyby change course. And it will be accomplished within 34 minutes of Orion out of contact with flight controllers.

Two minutes after passing approximately 80 miles from the moon’s surface at 7:57 a.m., Orion will return to contact as it orbits the moon on a trajectory that will return the spacecraft to its planned “far retrograde orbit,” or DRO.

In this planned orbit, Orion will reach a point farther from Earth — 268,558 miles — than any previously evaluated human vehicle as flight controllers test its engine, navigation and power system.

“We’re going to be doing a burn … on the far side of the moon for about two and a half minutes,” said flight director Jeff Redigan. “And the burn will really put us into a (planned) long retrograde orbit where we’re going to continue testing Orion.

“All of us will really be looking to get the data because the recording is on the far side of the moon and we will lose contact with the vehicle for a while, it will be doing the recording autonomously. And then we’ll take it and see how Orion is doing. »

The Artemis 1 mission is approaching step #9 in this flight plan infographic — the Outbound Powered Flyby. Credit: NASA

Orion’s initial flight path after launch was designed to carry the spacecraft around the Moon and back to Earth even if the main engine failed. After burning up, free reentry will no longer be possible, and Orion will depend on its propulsion system to return to Earth.

A second firing of Orion’s main engine on Friday at 4:52 p.m. will put Orion into a far retrograde orbit, so named because the spacecraft will once again move left to right, behind the moon as seen from Earth. Six days later, the third main engine will send Orion back to the moon for a second powered flyby on December 5.

This fourth and final burn will put the spacecraft on course for Earth, with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean west of San Diego scheduled for 12:40 p.m. EST on December 11.

The primary purpose of the Artemis 1 mission is to test Orion’s heat shield during a high-speed return from the Moon, when the spacecraft will be exposed to temperatures of 5,000 degrees from atmospheric friction.

Assuming the initial test flight goes well and no major problems arise, NASA plans to launch the Artemis 2 mission on a Space Launch System megarocket in 2024 with four astronauts on a journey around the moon.

This flight will be followed by the Artemis 3 mission in 2025-2026 to land the first woman and the next man near the Moon’s south pole. Orion capsule nears lunar flyby – Spaceflight Now

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