Tune in to CNN Saturday afternoon for live coverage from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Space correspondent Christine Fisher, along with a panel of experts, will bring us moment-by-moment coverage from the launch.
The Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft are scheduled to lift off at 2:17 and 4:17 p.m. Saturday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Although there is no crew on board, the mission is the first step in the Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and eventually land on Mars.
There is a 60% chance of favorable weather for the launch, increasing to 80% favorable by the end of the window, Meteorologist Melody Lovin said during a Friday morning news conference.
If the rocket cannot be launched on Saturday, the next launch will be on Monday.
Once it’s launched, the Orion spacecraft will enter the farthest retrograde orbit of the Moon and travel 40,000 miles beyond it, farther than any human-carrying spacecraft. Crews will ride aboard Artemis II on a similar trajectory in 2024, and astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the lunar south pole on the Artemis III mission in late 2025. The Artemis project aims to land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon.
Orion’s trip lasts 38 days around the moon, orbiting it and returning to Earth — traveling 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers). The capsule will splash into the Pacific Ocean in San Diego on October 11.
Here’s everything you can expect before, during and after the launch.
Thinking about getting started
Early on Saturday, the launch team will conduct a briefing on weather conditions and decide whether to launch Rocket fuel.
If all goes well, the team will begin fueling the rocket’s main stage and then fueling its upper stage. After that, the team will top up and fill with any of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that is dispersed during the refueling process.
About 50 minutes before launch, the final NASA test director will give a briefing. The release director polls the board to make sure each station is a “go”. 15 minutes before departure.
At 10 minutes and counting, things kick into high gear as the spacecraft and rocket go through final stages. Most of the action takes place in the final minute as the ground launch sequencer sends the command to take over the rocket flight computer’s automatic launch sequencer.
In the last few seconds, the hydrogen will burn off and the four RS-25 engines will start, resulting in booster ignition and a lift to T minus zero.
Journey to the Moon
The solid rocket boosters are ejected from the spacecraft in about two minutes and splash into the Atlantic Ocean, with other components ejected shortly thereafter. The rocket’s core will separate after about eight minutes and fall toward the Pacific. The Orion solar array allows deployment of wings.
Shortly thereafter, a trans-lunar injection burn, ICPS, increases Orion’s speed from 17,500 miles per hour (28,163 kilometers per hour) to 22,600 miles per hour (36,371 kilometers per hour) and escapes Earth’s gravity. the moon
After this burn, the ICPS will separate from Orion.
Around 9:45 pm ET, Orion will fire its first outbound trajectory correction using the European Service Module, which provides power, propulsion and thermal control to the spacecraft. This maneuver will put Orion on a path to the Moon.
Over the next few days after launch, Orion will come within 60 miles (96 kilometers) of the moon during its closest approach on the sixth day of the journey. The service module Orion will place in a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon on Day 10.
Orion will also break the distance record of 248,654 miles (400,169 kilometers) set by Apollo 13 in 1970 — on its 10th day orbiting the moon. The spacecraft will reach its maximum distance of 280,000 miles (450,616 kilometers) from Earth on September 23 when it passes 40,000 miles (64,373 kilometers) beyond the moon.
This is 30,000 miles (48,280 kilometers) further than Apollo 13’s record.
Orion will make its second closest approach to the lunar surface, within 500 miles (804 kilometers) on October 5. The service module will undergo a burn to help slingshot the Moon’s gravity back to Earth.
Just before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the service module will separate from Orion. The spacecraft will travel at the top of Earth’s atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour (40,233 kilometers per hour), and its heat shield will experience temperatures of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).
The atmosphere will reduce Orion’s speed to 300 miles per hour (482 kilometers per hour), and a series of parachutes will slow it down to 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) before splashing down in the Pacific at 2 o’clock. :10 pm ET on October 11.
Splashdown will be streamed live Footage from the 17 cameras on the rescue ship and helicopters awaiting Orion’s return, from NASA’s website.
A landing and recovery team will collect the Orion capsule and determine the spacecraft’s data Lessons learned Before humans returned to the moon.
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