NASA’s crewed Artemis II lunar mission recently took an important step forward when the crew capsule was connected to the service module.
The integration occurred at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week and was reported by NASA in Post on social media on Tuesday.
“After successfully completing hardware installation and testing over the past several months, engineers connected the two main Orion components that will fly NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, along with CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen, on the mission circle the moon and bring them home safely,” NASA said.
The critical service module is located beneath the Orion crew capsule and during next year’s Artemis II mission will provide propulsion, power, thermal control, and water and air for the four astronauts. The service module is installed in a housing surrounded by three spacecraft adapter exhaust fairing panels. During launch, these panels protect against severe heat, wind and acoustics, but once Orion is free of Earth’s atmosphere, the fairing panels are discarded to allow the spacecraft’s solar array to be revealed. Just before the crew capsule entered Earth’s atmosphere at the end of the mission, the service module detached and burned up.
The Artemis II mission team’s next task is to power the combined crew and service modules for the first time to ensure that they function properly. After that, high-altitude space testing will be conducted on Orion, a process that brings the spacecraft as close as possible to the harsh conditions it will experience in space.
The Orion spacecraft traveled to space for the first time on the uncrewed Artemis I mission towards the end of last year, so engineers have a good idea of how the current spacecraft will respond to upcoming tests.
The Artemis II crewed mission, scheduled for November 2024, will follow the same path as Artemis I, within about 80 miles of the lunar surface before heading further into space and then returning home. This mission is expected to last approximately 10 days.
After the first flight with a crew on board, NASA plans to launch the Artemis III mission in 2025, bringing the first humans to the lunar surface since the last Apollo mission in 1972.