Artemis I Launch
NASA’s Artemis I mission is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida within a 69-minute launch window beginning at 12:07 am on Monday, November 14. NASA will livestream the Artemis I launch here. The uncrewed mission will test the Space Launch System (SLS)—the most powerful rocket on Earth—and the Orion spacecraft. The spacecraft will leave Earth’s orbit, enter the moon’s orbit for either one or one and a half retrograde revolutions, and return to our home planet at speeds up to 25,000 mph. This high-speed re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere will heat Orion to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and test the spacecraft’s heat shield.
The Space Launch System and Orion Spacecraft
The SLS rocket is 322 feet tall (taller than the Statue of Liberty) and will weigh 5.75 million pounds at liftoff. Two solid rocket boosters will fall away two minutes into the flight, and the core stage will separate after about eight minutes. At this point, the spacecraft will be in low Earth orbit, ready for the trans-lunar injection (TLI). In the TLI maneuver, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage will fire, further accelerating the spacecraft and setting it on a precise trajectory to be captured in the moon’s orbit.
After the TLI maneuver, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage will also separate. At that point, Orion will use the service module developed by the European Space Agency for propulsion around the moon.
The Orion crew module is a pressurized chamber that on future missions will carry crew members. On Artemis I, an uncrewed mission, this module will carry important research payloads.
Onboard Orion will be 10 small satellites called CubeSats, each about the size of a shoebox. These CubeSats will be released from the spacecraft at different points in the trajectory to and around the moon. They are designed to collect data that will be important for future human missions to deep space, including data about the surface of the moon, space weather, and the long-term effects of deep-space radiation.
Three special passengers will also travel on the mission: one manikin named Commander Moonikin Campos and two manikin torsos named Helga and Zohar. Commander Campos will measure the acceleration and vibration crew members experience in flight. Helga and Zohar are designed to collect data about the effects of radiation on female bodies and the efficacy of a vest designed to protect against radiation. Zohar will wear a vest; Helga will not.
Four space biology experiments will also occur onboard Orion on its journey around the moon. These experiments will test the effects of deep space on seeds, yeast, fungi, and algae. The results will teach us more about how radiation affects DNA.
The Artemis I mission will feature a technology demonstration, called Callisto, developed by Lockheed Martin in partnership with Cisco and Amazon. It will test the ability of Webex by Cisco to connect a tablet on board the spacecraft to Mission Control Center and to activate an Amazon Alexa through voice commands.
Communication and Navigation System
Artemis I will also test NASA’s communication infrastructure, made up of the Near Space Network and the Deep Space Network. Signals from these networks will allow the navigation team to know where Orion is relative to the planned flight path and make maneuvers. Orion is expected to splashdown near the San Diego coast in the Pacific Ocean on December 9.
This mission will lay the groundwork for future missions to the moon and beyond. Artemis II is planned to take humans on a flight around the moon in 2024, and Artemis III is planned to take humans to the moon’s surface in 2025. The Artemis missions prepare the way for future human exploration of Mars.