NASA has finished its ongoing analysis of the Artemis 1 mission’s data. The agency has discovered no problems that would prevent the launch of the Artemis 2 mission. Artemis 2 is planned for late 2024. At a briefing on March 7, NASA managers disclosed that only minor concerns were discovered that could be fixed in time for the Artemis 2 mission. This was after data from the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft, and ground systems were analyzed.
The Orion crew capsule’s heat shield was the subject of the review’s most important finding. According to NASA’s Orion program manager Howard Hu, the heat shield’s material ablated unexpectedly differently during reentry. Hu insisted that there was still a sizable buffer in the form of untouched or “virgin” Avcoat. This is the ablative substance used on the heat shield, and this was not a safety issue.
Hu also emphasized that efforts are still being made to resolve a problem with the service module of Orion’s power system. Airbus, European Space Agency, and NASA are collaborating to determine what caused the unplanned events that took place during the Artemis 1 mission. Airbus is the primary contractor for the service module.
Engineers working on ground systems are also repairing some of the damage caused by the SLS launch to the mobile launcher. This includes pneumatic lines corroded by solid rocket booster residue and out-of-service elevators in the mobile launcher tower. However, the planned launch of Artemis 2 is not expected to be impacted by the early removal of avionics systems from the Artemis 1 Orion capsule. The capsule will be repaired and replaced on the Artemis 2 Orion capsule.
According to NASA’s plan, the SLS core stage will be transported from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the Kennedy Space Center in June or July, far before it is required. Hu added that he anticipates the Orion crew module and service module to be joined in late June. In addition, the construction work on the combined SLS/Orion vehicle would begin in the first quarter of 2024. This is meant to prepare for a late 2024 launch.
According to Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, the organization continues to anticipate that Artemis 3 will launch about a year after Artemis 2. This will, however, rely on how other components being developed by Axiom Space, fare. This includes SpaceX’s Starship lunar lander and the new spacesuits. “Our plan has always been 12 months, but there are big developments that must happen,” he stated. “That’s how it is when you try to put people on the moon,”