from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
So far, NASA's ambitious Artemis I mission seems to be going swimmingly. The Orion spacecraft has performed a number of propulsive burns, flying smoothly past the Moon, and will now test out its capabilities in deep space.
On Monday evening, after flying around the Moon, the spacecraft returned images of the flyby back to Earth via the Deep Space Network. While no humans are on board Orion during this test flight, they will be during its next mission. The views of the Moon from human spacecraft—the first in more than half a century—were brilliant.
[...] All of the separation events, including the solid rocket boosters and first and second stages, were nominal. Every performance metric in terms of thrust and accuracy was either on target or within less than 0.3 percent of what was predicted, Sarafin said. In terms of dropping off the Orion spacecraft in its desired payload, the rocket was off by just three miles, a remarkably small error.
Sarafin acknowledged that the extreme thrust of the Space Launch System rocket caused some damage to the mobile launch tower that supports the rocket during fueling and countdown operations. There was damage at the base of the launch stand where the boosters produce thrust and breakage of some pneumatic lines that carry gases to the vehicle. The violent shaking from the launch also broke the tower's access elevator and blew its doors off.
[...] The spacecraft's next big move will come on Friday, when its main engine will burn for a little more than a minute to place it into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon, taking it far out into deep space to test the ability of Orion to maintain a constant interior temperature and stress other systems. Then the vehicle will fly by the Moon again on December 5 before burning its engines for home.