Next Launch:


United States of America
United States of America
European Union
European Union
Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman
Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin
Date: Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Time: 6:47 AM UTC (UTC +0)

This goes

to Lunar orbit

Orion - Artemis 1

Artemis I

Artemis I, the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion, uses the Block 1 configuration, which stands 322 feet, taller than the Statue of Liberty, and weighs 5.75 million lbs.

For Artemis I, SLS Block 1 will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft and 10 CubeSats to an orbit 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, or 280,000 miles from Earth.

This mission will demonstrate the integrated system performance of SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems. A successful trip will pave the way for an upcoming crewed flight.

Artemis I is a test mission that will lead up to the first humans returning to the moon on Artemis III.


Orion (officially Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle or Orion MPCV) is a class of partially reusable crewed spacecraft to be used in NASA's Artemis program which will fly atop NASA's SLS rocket.

The spacecraft consists of a Crew Module (CM) space capsule designed by Lockheed Martin and the European Service Module (ESM) manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space. Capable of supporting a crew of four beyond low Earth orbit, Orion can last up to 21 days undocked and up to six months docked.

A single AJ10 engine provides the spacecraft's primary propulsion, while eight R-4D-11 engines, and six pods of custom reaction control system engines developed by Airbus, provide the spacecraft's secondary propulsion.

Although compatible with other launch vehicles, Orion is primarily intended to launch atop a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, with a tower launch escape system.

Orion was originally conceived in the early 2000s by Lockheed Martin as a proposal for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) to be used in NASA's Constellation program before its cancellation in 2010.

Orion Flight Test 1 or OFT-1 was the first test flight of the crew module portion of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. Without a crew, it launched on December 5th, 2014, at 7:05 am EST, by a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The mission was a four-hour, two-orbit test of the Orion crew module featuring a high apogee on the second orbit and concluding with a high-energy reentry at around 8.9 kilometers per second (20,000 mph). This mission design corresponds to the Apollo 4 mission of 1967, which validated the Apollo flight control system and heat shield at re-entry conditions planned for the return from lunar missions.

Additional Objectives

As the first integrated flight of the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the exploration ground systems at NASA’s spaceport in Florida, engineers hope to accomplish a host of additional test objectives to better understand how the spacecraft performs in space and prepare for future missions with crew.

Accomplishing additional objectives helps reduce risk for missions with crew and provides extra data so engineers can assess trends in spacecraft performance or improve confidence in spacecraft capabilities. Some of the additional objectives planned for Artemis I include:

Modal survey

On the European-built service module, Orion is equipped with 24 reaction control system (RCS) thrusters, small engines responsible for moving the spacecraft in different directions and rotating it. The modal survey is a prescribed series of small RCS firings that will help engineers ensure the structural margin of Orion’s solar array wings during the mission. Flight controllers will command several small firings of the engines to cause the arrays to flex. They will measure the impact of the firings on the arrays and evaluate whether the inertial measurement units used for navigation are experiencing what they should. Until the modal survey is complete, large translational burns are limited to 40 seconds.

Optical navigation camera certification

Orion has an advanced guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) system, responsible for always knowing where the spacecraft is located in space, which way it’s pointed, and where it’s going. It primarily uses two star trackers, sensitive cameras that take pictures of the star field around Orion, the Moon, and Earth, and compares the pictures to its built-in map of stars. The Optical navigation camera is a secondary camera that takes images of the Moon and Earth to help orient the spacecraft by looking at the size and position of the celestial bodies in the image. At several times during the mission, the optical navigation camera will be tested to certify it for use on future flights. Once certified, the camera also can help Orion autonomously return home if it were to lose communication with Earth.

Solar array wing camera Wi-Fi characterization

The cameras affixed to the tips of the solar array wings communicate with Orion’s camera controller through an on-board Wi-Fi network. Flight controllers will vary the positioning of the solar arrays to test the Wi-Fi strength while the arrays are in different configurations. The test will allow engineers to optimize how quickly imagery taken by cameras on the ends of the arrays can be transmitted to onboard recorders.

Crew module/service module surveys

Flight controllers will use the cameras on the four solar array wings to take detailed photos of the crew module and service module twice during the mission to identify any micrometeoroid or orbital debris strikes. A survey conducted early on in the mission will provide images soon after the spacecraft has flown beyond the altitude where space debris resides and a second survey on the return leg will occur several days before reentry.

Large file delivery protocol uplink

Engineers in mission control will uplink large data files to Orion to better understand how much time it takes for the spacecraft to receive sizeable files. During the mission, flight controllers use the Deep Space Network to communicate with and send data to the spacecraft, but testing before flight hasn’t including using the network. The test will help inform engineers’ understanding of whether the spacecraft uplink and downlink capability is sufficient to support human rating validation of end-to-end communication prior to Artemis II, the first flight with astronauts.

Star tracker thermal assessment

Engineers hope to characterize the alignment between the star trackers that are part of the guidance, navigation and control system and the Orion inertial measurements units, by exposing different areas of the spacecraft to the Sun and activating the star trackers in the different thermal states. The measurements will inform the uncertainty in the navigation state due to thermal bending and expansion which ultimately impacts the amount of propellant needed for spacecraft maneuvers during crewed missions.

Radiator loop flow control

Two radiator loops on the spacecraft’s European Service Module help expel heat generated by different systems throughout the flight. There are two modes for the radiators. During speed mode, the radiator pumps operate at a constant speed to help limit vibrations and is the primary mode used during Artemis I and during launch for all Artemis flights. Control mode allows for better control of the radiator pumps and their flow rate, and will be used on crewed missions when more refined control of flow through the radiators is desired. This objective will test control mode to provide additional data about how it operates in space.

Solar array wing plume

Depending on the angle of Orion’s solar array wings during some thruster firings, the plume, or exhaust gasses, from those firings could increase the arrays’ temperature. Through a series of small RCS firings, engineers will gather data to characterize heating of the solar array wings.

Propellant slosh

Liquid propellant kept in tanks on the spacecraft moves differently in space than on Earth because of the lack of gravity in space. Propellant motion, or slosh, in space is hard to model on Earth, so engineers plan to gather data on the motion of the propellant during several planned activities during the mission.

Search acquire and track (SAT) mode

SAT mode is an algorithm intended to recover and maintain communications with Earth after loss of Orion’s navigation state, extended loss of communications with Earth, or after a temporary power loss that causes Orion to reboot hardware. To test the algorithm, flight controllers will command the spacecraft to enter SAT mode, and after about 15 minutes, restore normal communications. Testing SAT mode will give engineers confidence it can be relied upon as the final option to fix a loss of communications when crew are aboard.

Entry aerothermal

During entry of the spacecraft through Earth’s atmosphere, a prescribed series of 19 reaction control system firings on the crew module will be done to understand performance compared to projected data for the sequence. Engineers are interested in gathering this data during high heating on the spacecraft where the aerothermal effects are largest.

Integrated Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) functionality

The SARSAT test will verify connectivity between beacons to be worn by crew on future flights and ground stations receiving the signal. The beacons will be remotely activated and powered for about an hour after splashdown and will also help engineers understand whether the signal transmitted interferes with communications equipment used during recovery operations, including Orion’s built-in tri-band beacon which transmits the spacecraft’s precise location after splashdown.

Ammonia boiler restart

After Artemis I splashdown, Orion’s ammonia boiler will be turned off for several minutes then restarted to provide additional data about the system’s capability. Ammonia boilers are used to help control the thermal aspects of the spacecraft to keep its power and avionics systems cool, and keep the interior of the crew module at a comfortable temperature for future crews. In some potential contingency landing scenarios for crewed missions, crews may need to turn off the ammonia boiler to check for hazards outside the spacecraft, then potentially turn it back on to provide additional cooling.

Engineers will perform additional tests to gather data, including monitoring the heatshield and interior components for saltwater intrusion after splashdown. They also will test the GPS receiver on the spacecraft to determine the spacecraft’s ability to pick up the signal being transmitted around Earth, which could be used to augment the spacecraft’s ability to understand its positioning in the event of communications loss with mission controllers.

Collectively, performing additional objectives during the flight provides additional information engineers can use to improve Orion as NASA’s spacecraft that will take humans to deep space for years to come.

Photo: NASA

On this


SLS (Block 1)

After the successful Artemis I mission, the next step is to start sending people on missions to the Moon and beyond on the world's most powerful rocket.

On its second mission, Artemis II, SLS will send Orion and its crew farther than humans have traveled before––around 250,000 miles from Earth, 10,000 miles beyond the Moon. Like Artemis I, the second flight will use a Block I version of NASA's SLS rocket.

On the third flight, Artemis III, SLS will send Orion astronauts on a mission that will land on the Moon. Americans along with their international and commercial partners will use the Moon as a proving ground to test technologies and prepare for missions to Mars.

To land larger cargo on the Moon and to send people to Mars, SLS will evolve to a configuration called Block 1B. This rocket configuration will use a powerful Exploration Upper stage instead of the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and be capable of sending 42 metric tons (92,500 pounds) to the Moon.

One feature that will help the rocket haul payload to space along with Orion is the universal stage adapter. It acts like the trunk in a large van and allows SLS to send both astronauts and large cargo that take up more than 10,000 cubic feet and weigh up to 10,000 pounds.

Carrying only cargo, the rocket’s 8.4-meter shroud could hold three fully loaded school buses or the equivalent of 30 Mars Curiosity rovers that are about the size of a small car. Large parts of NASA’s Gateway can be launched along with the Orion spacecraft or on separate flights.

The ultimate evolution of SLS is the Block 2 rocket that can carry either crew and cargo or just cargo needed for Mars exploration or for planetary missions headed to the outer solar system. The Block 2 launch vehicle reaches orbit with the same core stage used by smaller versions of the rocket, but more powerful boosters will increase thrust to 11.9 million pounds. This will allow it to launch up to more than 46 metric tons (101,000 pounds) to deep space.

Artemis I, the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion, used the Block 1 configuration, which stands 322 feet and weighs 5.75 million lbs. During launch and ascent, SLS produced 8.8 million lbs. of maximum thrust, 15 percent more thrust than the Saturn V rocket.

For Artemis I, Block 1 launched an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to an orbit 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, or 280,000 miles from Earth. This mission demonstrated the integrated system performance of SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems prior to a crewed flight.

Core Stage

The Boeing Company, in Huntsville, Alabama, builds the SLS core stages, including the avionics that controls the vehicle during flight. Towering more than 212 feet with a diameter of 27.6 feet, the core stage stores 730,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that fuel the RS-25 engines. Core stages are built at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans using state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, including a friction stir welding tool that is the largest of its kind in the world. The core stage is the newest part of the rocket, and it successfully completed its one and only planned Green Run test series at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. With the Artemis I core stage complete, Boeing is building stages for the next few Artemis missions. The SLS avionics computer software is developed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

RS-25 Engines

Propulsion for the SLS core stage will be provided by four RS-25 engines. Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, is upgrading an inventory of 16 RS-25 shuttle engines to SLS performance requirements, including a new engine controller, nozzle insulation, and required operation at 512,000 lbs. of thrust. During the flight, the four engines provide about 2 million lbs. of thrust. The SLS Program and its industry partners tested the four RS-25 engines and the entire core stage in a “Green Run” test campaign that culminated in a successful, full-duration, 500-second hot-firing at Stennis. Aerojet Rocketdyne has tested new controllers for the engines and has processed engines for follow-on flights after Artemis I. In addition, Aerojet Rocketdyne has restarted production of new RS-25 engines and is developing and testing new, advanced components to make the engines more affordable.


Two shuttle-derived solid rocket boosters provide more than 75 percent of the vehicle’s thrust during the first two minutes of flight. The prime contractor for the boosters, Northrop Grumman’s Northern Utah team, has modified the original shuttle’s configuration of four propellant segments to a five-segment version. The design also includes new avionics, propellant grain design, and case insulation, and eliminates the recovery parachutes.

In addition to the boosters for Artemis I, Northrop Grumman has completed motor segments for Artemis II and is working on boosters for missions beyond Artemis II. Trains transport booster segments from Utah to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where they are stacked with forward and aft assemblies to create the largest, most powerful boosters ever built for spaceflight. The boosters’ avionics systems are tested at Kennedy and Marshall.

Integrated Spacecraft

The initial capability to propel Orion out of Earth’s orbit for Block 1 will come from the ICPS, based on the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage used successfully on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV family of rockets. It uses one RL10 engine made by Aerojet Rocketdyne.The engine is powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and generates 24,750 lbs. of thrust. With two upper stages complete, United Launch Alliance is manufacturing the Artemis III ICPS.Teledyne Brown Engineering of Huntsville builds the launch vehicle stage adapter that partially encloses the ICPS and connects it to the core stage. The Orion stage adapter (OSA) will connect Orion to the ICPS on the SLS Block 1 vehicle. The OSA can accommodate several CubeSat payloads in 6 Unit or 12 Unit sizes, depending on mission parameters. For Artemis I, the OSA carries several 6U-sized CubeSats to deep space for various science and technology demonstration missions.

The SLS Team

SLS is America’s rocket with more than 1,100 companies from across the U.S. and at every NASA center supporting the development of the world’s most powerful rocket. The SLS Program, managed by Marshall, works closely with the Orion Program, managed by NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and the Exploration Ground Systems Program, managed at Kennedy. All three programs are managed by the Exploration Systems Development Division within the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

All captions and data courtesy of NASA

Image: Erik Kuna for Supercluster

From this

launch site

LC-39B - Kennedy Space Center, Florida
November 16, 2022

NASA's historic Kennedy Space Center is located on Cape Canaveral, Florida, and has hosted decades of historic space missions since the early days of the Apollo program.

Today, Kennedy Space Center is a multi-user spaceport and hosts private companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and others.

Launch Complex 39B was designed to handle launches of the Saturn V rocket, the largest and most powerful launch vehicle, which would propel the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. Launch Complex 39B's inaugural launch in May 1969 was also that of the only Saturn V to launch from the pad; SA-505, used to launch the Apollo 10 mission.

After the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, Pad 39B was used for Saturn IB launches. The Mobile Launchers were then modified for the Saturn IB rocket. These were used for three crewed Skylab flights and the Apollo-Soyuz, since the Saturn IB pads 34 and 37 at Cape Canaveral had been decommissioned.

Pad 39A hosted all Space Shuttle launches until January 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger would become the first to launch from pad 39B during the ill-fated STS-51-L mission, which ended with the destruction of Challenger and the death of the mission's crew a minute into the flight.

Launch Complex 39B hosted 53 Space Shuttle launches until December 2006, when Discovery launched from the pad for the final time during the STS-116 mission.

Launch Complex 39B would subsequently be reconfigured for crewed Ares I launches as part of the Constellation program; the Ares I-X mission launched a prototype Ares I from 39B in October 2009, prior to the program's cancellation the following year. Since then, no launches from pad 39B have occurred.

Photo: Erik Kuna for Supercluster

Here's where to view Artemis-I

Viewing Sites
  • Alan Shepard Park
  • A. Max Brewer Parkway Bridge
  • Saturn V Building / Banana Creek
  • Cherie Down Park
  • Cocoa Beach Pier
  • Jetty Park
  • Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • Lori Wilson Park
  • Playalinda Beach
  • Rotary Riverfront Park
  • Sand Point Park
  • Sidney Fischer Park
  • Space View Park

Space is for everyone. Here’s a link to share the launch with your friends.