"Exceeding Expectations" - Orion Spacecraft Conducts First Inspection

“Exceeding Expectations” – Orion Spacecraft Conducts First Inspection

On the third day of the Artemis I mission, Orion maneuvered its solar panels and captured the Moon with a camera mounted on the end of the panel. The spacecraft is now halfway to the Moon. Credit:

Founded in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States federal government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civil space program, as well as aeronautical and aerospace research. His vision is "Discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values ​​are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence and inclusion."

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On the third day of its Artemis I journey, NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft is now more than halfway to the Moon.

“Today, we met to review the Orion spacecraft performance, and it is exceeding performance expectations,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager.

Flight controllers used Orion’s cameras on Friday to inspect the crew module thermal protection system and European Service Module. This was the first of two planned external evaluations for the spacecraft. Teams conducted this survey early in the mission to provide detailed images of the spacecraft’s external surfaces after it has flown through the portion of Earth’s orbit where the majority of space debris resides.

The second inspection is required during the return phase to assess the overall condition of the spacecraft several days before re-entry. During both inspections, the Integrated Communications Officer, or INCO, commands cameras on the four solar array wings to take still images of the entire spacecraft, allowing experts to pinpoint any micrometeoroid or orbital debris strikes. The team in mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will review the imagery following the survey.

Artemis All Access is your look at the latest from Artemis I, the people and technology behind the mission, and what’s next. This uncrewed flight test around the Moon will pave the way for a crewed flight test and future human lunar exploration as part of Artemis. Credit: NASA

Over the past few days, a team has been evaluating anomalous star-tracking data correlated with thruster firings. Star trackers are sensitive cameras that take pictures of the star field around Orion. By comparing the images to its built-in star map, the star tracker can determine which direction Orion is facing. Teams now understand readings and there are no operational changes.

NASA also received updates from teams associated with the 10 CubeSats that were delivered to space on a ring attached to the upper stage of the Space Launch System rocket. All 10 CubeSats were successfully deployed via the adapter timer. The individual CubeSats missions are distinct from Artemis I. The small satellites, each the size of a shoebox, are inherently high risk, high reward and teams are at different stages of mission or recovery operations in some cases.

NASA held a briefing on Friday (see video embedded below) previewing Orion’s arrival in the lunar sphere of influence. To follow the mission in real time, you can follow Orion on its mission around the Moon and back, and check the NASA TV schedule for updates on upcoming TV events. The first episode of Artemis All Access is available now (see video embedded above) as a recap of the first three days of the mission with a preview of what’s to come.

From NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA is previewing the Orion spacecraft’s entry into the Moon’s sphere of influence and the pair of maneuvers that will propel the spacecraft into a distant retrograde lunar orbit. Participants of the information session include:

  • Mike Sarafin, Artemis I Mission Leader, NASA Headquarters
  • Jeff Radigan, Flight Director, NASA Johnson
  • Jim Geffre, Orion Vehicle Integration Manager, NASA Johnson

Orion’s entry into the lunar sphere of influence will make the Moon, instead of Earth, the primary gravitational force acting on the spacecraft. Flight controllers will perform an outward powered hover to harness the force of the Moon’s gravity, accelerating the spacecraft and steering it into a distant retrograde orbit beyond the Moon. During the outward powered flyby, Orion will make its closest approach – approximately 80 miles – above the lunar surface. Four days later, another burn using the European Service Module will insert Orion into a distant retrograde orbit, where it will remain for about a week testing the spacecraft systems.

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