NASA / ESA - Orion Crew Vehicle patch.
Dec 10, 2022
The Orion spacecraft is on its last full day in space with splashdown off the Baja Coast near Guadalupe Island targeted for 10:39 a.m. CST (11:39 a.m. EST) on Sunday, Dec. 11.
Engineers conducted the final Artemis I in-space developmental flight test objective to characterize temperature impacts on solar array wings from plumes, or exhaust gases. Once the solar array wing was in the correct test position, flight controllers fired the reaction control system thrusters using opposing thrusters simultaneously to balance the torque and test a variety of firing patterns. Engineers will perform several additional flight test objectives after Orion splashes down in the water and before powering down the spacecraft.
Image above: (Dec. 9, 2022) On flight day 24 of the Artemis I mission, Orion’s optical navigation camera captured this black-and-white photo of Earth as a sliver. Orion uses the optical navigation camera to capture imagery of the Earth and the Moon at different phases and distances, providing an enhanced body of data to certify its effectiveness under different lighting conditions as a way to help orient the spacecraft on future missions with crew. Image Credit: NASA.
The fifth return trajectory correction burn occurred at 2:32 p.m. CST, Saturday, Dec. 10. During the burn the auxiliary engines fired for 8 seconds, accelerating the spacecraft by 3.4 mph (5 feet per second) to ensure Orion is on course for splashdown. The sixth and final trajectory correction burn will take place about five hours before Orion enters Earth’s atmosphere.
On Orion’s return to Earth, NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) will facilitate communications for the final return trajectory correction burn, spacecraft separation, re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere and splashdown. Shortly before the service module separates from the crew module, communication will be switched from NASA’s Deep Space Network to its Near Space Network for the remainder of the mission. Located in geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles above Earth, TDRS are used to relay data from spacecraft at lower altitudes to ground antennas. During re-entry, the intense heat generated as Orion encounters the atmosphere turns the air surrounding the capsule into plasma and briefly disrupts communication with the spacecraft.
Image above: An illustration of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which is on a path back to Earth and is slated to splashdown off the coast of Mexico on 11 December. Image Credits: NASA/Liam Yanulis.
Recovery forces have arrived on location off the coast of Baja where they will stand by to greet the spacecraft after its re-entry back into the atmosphere at 25,000 mph. On the ship, personnel are running through preparations and simulations to ensure the interagency landing and recovery team, led by Exploration Ground Systems from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is ready to support recovery operations. The team consists of personnel and assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, including Navy amphibious specialists and Space Force weather specialists, and engineers and technicians from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Lockheed Martin Space Operations.
Orion Return to Earth and splashdown flight profile. Image Credit: ESA
Teams will recover Orion and attempt to recover hardware jettisoned during landing, including the forward bay cover and three main parachutes. A four-person team of engineers from Johnson will be aboard the U.S. Navy recovery ship using “Sasquatch” software to identify the footprint of hardware released from the capsule. The primary objective for the Sasquatch team is to help the ship get as close as possible to Orion for a quick recovery. A secondary objective is to recover as many additional elements as possible for analysis later.
Just after 2 p.m. CST Dec. 10, Orion was 113,453 miles from Earth and 239,432 miles from the Moon, cruising at 3,375 miles per hour.
Live coverage of Orion’s reentry and splashdown will begin at 11 a.m. EST on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app. A post-splashdown briefing is scheduled for about 3:30 p.m.
NASA Television: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive
Artemis I - Flight Day 24: Orion Heads Home
Artemis I – Flight Day 23: Mission Teams Prepare for Splashdown, Select Landing Site
Artemis I Flight Day 22 – Orion Continues on its Journey Back to Earth
Artemis I – Flight Day 21: Orion Leaves Lunar Sphere of Influence, Heads for Home
Artemis I – Flight Day 20: Orion Conducts Return Powered Flyby
Artemis lunar flyby: Orion is coming home
Artemis I – Flight Day 19: Orion Prepares for Close Lunar Flyby, Teams Examining Power Conditioning Issue
Artemis I Flight Day 18 – Orion Re-enters Lunar Sphere of Influence
Flight Day 17 - Orion Fine-tunes Trajectory, Downlinks Data, Continues Test Objectives
Artemis I Flight Day 16 – Orion Successfully Completes Distant Retrograde Departure Burn
Artemis I Flight Day 15 – Team Polls “Go” For Distant Retrograde Orbit Departure
Artemis I — I Flight Day 14: Deep Space Testing Continues
Artemis I — Flight Day 13: Orion Goes the (Max) Distance
Artemis I – Flight Day 12: Orion Star Trackers, Reaction Control Thrusters Tested
Artemis I enters Moon orbit
Artemis I – Flight Day 11: Orion Surpasses Apollo 13 Record Distance from Earth
Flight Day 10: Orion Enters Distant Retrograde Orbit
Artemis I – Flight Day Nine: Orion One Day Away from Distant Retrograde Insertion
Latest Updates from Artemis I
Artemis I – Flight Day Six: Orion Performs Lunar Flyby, Closest Outbound Approach
Artemis powering past the Moon
Orion Successfully Completes Lunar Flyby, Re-acquires Signal with Earth
Artemis I – Flight Day Four: Testing WiFi Signals, Radiator System, GO for Outbound Powered Flyby
NASA’s Artemis I Cameras to Offer New Views of Orion, Earth, Moon
Artemis I Liftoff! 50 years after Apollo 17, Orion on Its Way to the Moon
Artemis I reference guide: https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis-i/img/Artemis%20I%20Reference%20Guide_Inter.pdf
Artemis II mission: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-s-first-flight-with-crew-important-step-on-long-term-return-to-the-moon-missions-to/
Track Orion: https://www.nasa.gov/trackartemis
Artemis I: https://www.nasa.gov/artemis-1
Orion spacecraft (ESA): https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Orion
Orion Spacecraft (NASA): https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/orion/index.html
Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Shaneequa Vereen.
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