December 2, 2022

SpaceX and NASA target the launch of the moon separated by days

SpaceX and NASA target the launch of the moon separated by days

NASA and a SpaceX client have announced plans to launch two unrelated missions to the moon two days apart next month.

On October 12, NASA confirmed It will launch a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to the Kennedy Space Center LC-39A platform for the fourth time early November 4. Barring surprises, the next rocket launch is scheduled not before (NET) 12:07 a.m. EDT (17:07 UTC), November 14. The SLS is tasked with launching an unmanned prototype of NASA’s Orion crew capsule en route to the Moon, where the spacecraft will attempt to enter lunar orbit and conduct tests before returning to Earth.

On the same day, Japanese startup ispace confirmed The HAKUTO-R M1, the first commercial lunar lander, is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime between November 9-15. While NASA has a file Contract worth $73 million With ispace developing a second-generation SERIES-2 lunar lander in the United States, the first-generation HAKUTO-R program was almost entirely a private business. The first M1 probe will attempt to deliver two rovers and several other commercial and government payloads to the lunar surface.

ispace’s first HAKUTO-R lunar lander. (ispace)
NASA’s first SLS rocket on the Moon. (Richard Engel)

As of 2020, HAKUTO-R is expected to weigh approximately 1,050 kg (about 2,300 lb) at launch, and is designed to land up to 30 kg (about 66 lb) of usable payload on the Moon. ispace designed and built most of the probe’s structures but contracted with European ArianeGroup to provide the propulsion system and to fully assemble, integrate and test the lander in Germany.

according to ispace documents [PDF]Falcon 9 will launch HAKUTO-R into a “supersynchronous” Earth orbit, where the probe will check its systems before eventually using its own thrust to propel itself away from Earth’s gravity well and into the Moon. It expects the nominal transit from Earth’s orbit to the lunar surface to take at least 20 days. The probe is designed to survive up to 12 days on the lunar surface, during which it will attempt to run its experiments on board, deploy each of its small rover, and transmit all the data collected back to Earth.

Artist’s impression of HAKUTO-R on the moon. (ispace)

startup start [PDF] Its arrangements with SpaceX were described as contracts to launch two landers as secondary payloads on two Falcon 9 rockets. In its press releases, ispace no longer specified whether the one-ton spacecraft would be the only payload on the Falcon 9. Currently scheduled November 11. NET. In a rare move, SpaceX will It is said spend The Falcon 9’s reusable Phase 1 booster while on mission, leaving much more performance on the table.

ispace has raised nearly $210 million since its founding in 2010 — coincidentally the same year that the US Congress forced NASA to begin development of the SLS rocket. After 12 years, there is a possibility that the first launches of the SLS and HAKUTO-R will occur with a difference of hours.

When it is launched next month, NASA’s SLS rocket will head to the launch pad for the fourth time. The SLS and Orion have had a less than smooth journey for their first launch, experiencing half a decade of delays and tens of billions of dollars on budget as a result. Once all the pieces arrived in Florida, it took NASA and its contractors about 12 months to finish assembling the SLS and Orion and begin testing the integrated rocket.

Since integrated testing began in April 2022, the SLS has undergone five announced tests at Wet Wear Rehearsal (WDR) in April, June and September. It also attempted to launch twice on August 29 and September 3, although it can be argued that the two attempts were a continuation of WDR testing in everything but the name. But it appears that when the rocket is launched for the fourth time, NASA will finally have completed almost all of the tests it should have finished before loudly declaring that the Mega Moon Rocket was ready for launch in August.

The SLS’ first launch would almost certainly take precedence over any other Cape Canaveral launch around the same time, including the HAKUTO-R M1, but SpaceX could launch the lunar lander about a day before or after NASA’s lunar rocket.

SpaceX and NASA target the launch of the moon separated by days