Artemis 1: The Orion spacecraft went as far from Earth as possible


On day 11 of its flight, NASA’s Orion spacecraft captured an image looking back at Earth from a camera mounted on one of its solar arrays.

Image: NASA

NASA’s Orion spacecraft has just reached 268,563 miles from Earth – the furthest it will go on the yet-to-be-launched Artemis I mission.

Now, Orion is about 20,000 miles from Earth, the farthest the Apollo 13 spacecraft traveled during its 1970 mission. Apollo 13 was considered a “successful failure” because NASA safely returned the crew to Earth after aborting the moon landing due to an explosion in the service module.

On Flight Day 13, Orion was halfway through its 25.5-day mission and was still in the middle of the Moon’s six-day retrograde orbit (DRO). Orion joined the fuel-efficient DRO on Saturday and will after this point fly around the moon and return to Earth with a planned collision in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, December 11, then NASA and the US Navy’s Exploration Ground Systems team will restore it.

“Thanks to his unbelievably doable spirit, Artemis I enjoyed phenomenal success and accomplished a series of events that made history,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “It’s unbelievable how smoothly this mission went, but this is a test. That’s what we do – we test and emphasize it.”

NASA engineers chose to skip Monday’s planned orbital maintenance burnout because Orion was on track during the DRO. NASA is considering adding seven more test targets that focus on the spacecraft’s propulsion system and thermal environment. Subsequent critical tests will be assessed during entry, descent, landing, and recovery. To date, 37% of the test goals have been completed or are in the process of being achieved.

As of Monday, about 5,640 pounds of propellant had been used, up from 3,715.7 pounds of propellant used last Monday. NASA says Orion has now used about 150 pounds less propellant than it had expected before launch. It also has more than 2,000 pounds of profit in addition to what the teams plan to use for the Artemis I mission.

Additionally, NASA teams have sent more than 2,000 files from Orion to Earth. NASA briefly lost contact with Orion earlier this week after reconfiguring the communication link between it and the Deep Space Network.

On Sunday, members of the Artemis I team tested Orion’s star tracker and began another test flight of the reaction-driven propulsion. Orion’s star trackers and inertial measurement units — including gyroscopes and three accelerometers — are vital parts of Orion’s guidance, navigation, and control systems. Star trackers are important for measuring the positions of stars to help determine the direction of spacecraft. Inertial measurement units help calculate Orion’s position, velocity, and posture.

NASA teams on Sunday also tested Callisto payload on board Orion. Lockheed Martin has partnered with Amazon and Cisco to establish Callisto video communication and AI voice, housed in Orion’s cabin. NASA is testing the voice-activated assistant Alexa and Cisco WebEx video technology in deep space.

NASA planned to transmit video and audio from the Mission Control Center at Johnson to Orion, where the participants’ video was displayed on the tablet and the audio from the speaker, to check if the customized version This of Alexa works. Because Alexa in space can’t quickly process information in the cloud on Earth, Callisto uses NASA’s Deep Space Network and a local database on the spacecraft to communicate with Alexa and respond.


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