With Tropical Storm Nicole currently battering Florida, NASA has decided not to return its new Moon rocket to safety. Instead, Orion and SLS will have to weather the storm as it passes, hoping it can still make its launch date.
NASA’s Artemis 1 mission sits ready for its flight to the Moon! Launched at Launch Pad 39B for an early arrival on Friday, Nov. 4, Orion and SLS are preparing for a roughly 25-day journey into space.
Orion and SLS sit on Launch Pad 39B, awaiting the next launch window, which opens at 12:07 AM. EST on November 14, 2022. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
Friday was the latest in a series of installations and relaunches for the mission, as NASA was forced to send the rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building to address technical issues and avoid damage from Hurricane Ian.
Now, as they sit on the launch pad ahead of their Monday launch date, Orion and the Space Launch System face a new weather threat.
Tropical Storm Nicole is currently approaching the Florida coastline.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center’s forecast says the storm has sustained winds of up to 60 mph (96 km/h) and is expected to reach a Category 1 hurricane (120 mph winds) by Wednesday afternoon. The storm’s track is set to pass just south of the Space Coast on Thursday morning. Its interaction with land should cause it to weaken back to tropical storm strength at that time.
The 5-day portion of Tropical Storm Nicole, beginning Tuesday, November 8. Credit: National Hurricane Center
“Based on current forecast data,” a NASA update said Monday, “managers have determined that the Space Launch System rocket and Orion will remain at Launch Pad 39B.”
On Tuesday, the Kennedy Space Center was placed in HURCON III status (Hurricane Status 3). That means they are 48 hours away from experiencing sustained winds of 50 knots (92 km/h). NASA is now protecting all facilities and equipment at KSC and is deploying a “launch team” of personnel who will remain in a safe location to monitor the launch facility during the storm.
The US 45th Space Squadron’s weekly weather forecast for Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center calls for rain over the next three days, with a chance of lightning and damaging winds Wednesday night through Thursday night. Wind speeds overnight Wednesday into Thursday are expected to reach 74 km/h (40 knots), with gusts up to 101 km/h (55 knots).
In its latest update, NASA says the Space Launch System is designed to withstand winds of up to 138 kilometers per hour (74.4 knots)
If Tropical Storm Nicole had taken another path, without impacting the Kennedy Space Center, Artemis 1 would have been scheduled to launch shortly after midnight on Monday, November 14.
Once the storm passes, if Orion, SLS and Launch Pad 39B make it through unscathed, NASA expects to have the mission on track for a 1:04 a.m. launch. EST on Wednesday, November 16. In case they need more time, There is a backup start date set for Saturday November 19th.
What is Artemis 1?
Artemis 1 is an uncrewed, ground-controlled mission during its 25-day flight around the Moon and back.
The flight path of Artemis 1 is detailed in this infographic. Credit: NASA
However, the Orion spacecraft will not be completely empty.
The three seats in the capsule will be occupied by specially designed mannequins. One, named Commander Moonikin Campos, is equipped with sensors to test the stresses astronauts will experience on future flights. Meanwhile, two mannequin torsos, or ghosts, called Helga and Zohar, will return data on radiation exposure during the journey.
Test mannequin, Commander Moonikin Campos, sits in his flight suit before the Artemis 1 flight. Inset, bottom right: The identical “ghost” fuselages, Helga and Zohar, will be fitted with more than 5,600 passive sensors and 34 active detectors radiation to measure radiation exposure as part of the MATROSHKA AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE). Credit: NASA
According to NASA, “Each of these intentional passengers on Orion informs the working conditions and safety of astronauts, helping NASA and its partners better prepare for—and minimize—the potential harmful effects of missions deep into space travel farther from Earth and longer lasting than ever.”
These mannequins won’t be completely alone for this first return flight to the Moon.
Riding with them will be a small plush doll of Shaun the Sheep (of Wallace & Gromit fame) provided by the European Space Agency.
“As one of the first astronauts to fly an Artemis mission, Shaun is pioneering the exploration of the Moon, a great honor for our furry adventurer!” Lucy Wendover, Marketing Director at Aardman, the animation studio that created Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, said in an ESA press release.
Shaun the Sheep, from the “Wallace & Gromit” clay movies and the “Shaun the Sheep” TV series, poses with the ESA plane in front of a model of the Orion service module. Credit: ESA
The collection of space-going memorabilia in the Artemis 1 Official Flight Kit includes the rest of Orion’s “passenger” list — four LEGO minifigures, developed for LEGO Education’s Build to Launch program, and a one-of-a-kind Snoopy plush that will act as the mission’s zero-g indicator.
Left: four LEGO minifigures making the journey to the Moon on Artemis 1 stand in front of the Orion Service Module. Credit: NASA/Radislav Sinyak. Right: a unique Snoopy doll will act as the mission’s zero-g marker. Credit: 2021 Peanuts Worldwide LLC, provided by NASA
Scientific mission too!
NASA wouldn’t send a mission to the Moon without including as many science payloads as the craft could fit.
In addition to the science instruments that will collect data on what future crewed missions will experience during their flight, Orion will conduct biology experiments and technology demonstrations.
One such display, called Callisto, has a very “Star Trek” feel to it.
Combining the technologies of Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant with Cisco’s Webex video conferencing system, Callisto will allow NASA controllers on the ground to retrieve information and issue commands to Orion using voice commands.
From this workstation at Mission Control in Houston, Howard Hu, Orion deputy program manager, and Brian Jones, Lockheed Martin’s chief engineer for the Callisto project, observe signals from the Orion spacecraft at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida during during a Callisto test. System. Credit: NASA
According to NASA: *”Participants will assist in the demonstration by asking Alexa a question or giving a task command in front of a console with a camera and microphone. Their images and voices will be transmitted from mission control to Orion, where the video of Participants will appear on the tablet and audio will be played from the speaker, then Alexa will record the audio and respond.Cameras inside the spacecraft will capture the entire interaction and relay it over the network back to the room to mission control, where participants can also view and listen to the session.”*
If Callisto works, future space flights could look a little more like the space shuttle Businessas astronauts and their spaceships share information simply by talking to each other.
Walking into space with Orion will be nearly a dozen cubesats, which will be deployed on a variety of missions of their own, from exploring the Moon and the effects of space radiation to demonstrating new space propulsion systems.
WATCH BELOW: NASA to send science experiments for Artemis I mission to the Moon and back
NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) will also take a ride in space with Orion and SLS. After this tiny spacecraft separates from the rocket, it will shadow Orion until it reaches the Moon. At that point, it will launch itself using a solar sail, which will use the Sun’s light to propel the spacecraft toward its target — a near-Earth asteroid named 2020 GE.
This artist’s rendering shows the NEA Scout investigating a near-Earth asteroid. Credit: NASA
According to NASA, it will take NEA Scout about two years to fly about 150 million kilometers, or about the same distance as Earth from the Sun, to reach this asteroid.
“Once at its destination, NEA Scout will take a series of images of its target — ranging from 50 cm/pixel to 10 cm/pixel — that will be used by scientists on Earth to better understand the object,” said NASA.
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