Following a successful launch today, November 16, NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft is heading toward the Moon on a 25.5-day mission beyond the lunar surface. At 1:47 a.m. EST, Orion lifted off atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
During the flight test, engineers intend to learn as much as possible about Orion’s performance. They are focused on the primary objectives for the mission: demonstrating Orion’s heat shield at lunar return re-entry conditions, demonstrating operations and facilities during all mission phases, and retrieving the spacecraft after splashdown.
Seen here is the Orion capsule’s first look back at Earth for the Artemis I mission. The Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft launched at 1:47 a.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39B. This will be an uncrewed flight test that will demonstrate the ability of the SLS rocket to safely carry the Orion spacecraft around the Moon and its return and recovery to Earth for the agency’s Artemis Program. Credit: NASA
From the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, flight controllers successfully completed the first outbound trajectory correction burn as planned at 9:32 a.m. by the European-built service module’s main engine. The burn tested Orion’s main engine for the first time and adjusted the spacecraft’s course toward the Moon. Several additional course correction burns are planned on the journey.
While Orion began its trek toward the lunar environment, 10 CubeSats deployed by a timer from an adapter still attached to the SLS’s upper stage. Each CubeSat has different timelines for acquiring a signal with its mission operators.
Flight controllers also performed a modal survey. This is a test to verify that the models and simulations used to design Orion’s solar array wings accurately reflect the motion that is occurring in flight. This was accomplished by firing Orion’s reaction control system thrusters and observing how the solar array wings react to that specific firing sequence. Engineers also calibrated the optical navigation system and gathered imagery using the spacecraft’s cameras. Orion is outfitted with multiple cameras used for various functions such as engineering as well as sharing the progress of the mission with the public.
The second outbound trajectory burn is scheduled for Thursday. It will use the auxiliary thrusters, which will be used for most trajectory correction burns.