NASA Prepares SLS Moon Rockets for First Crewed Artemis Missions

Casting and assembly of solid rocket booster, shown her, for the Artemis IV mission is underway at Northrop Grumman’s factory in Promontory, Utah. The booster motors for Artemis II and Artemis III have completed casting and are ready to go to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where they will be assembled with other booster hardware being prepared for the missions. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As teams continue to prepare NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for its debut flight with the launch of Artemis I, NASA and its partners across the country have made great progress building the rocket for Artemis II, the first crewed Artemis mission. The team is also manufacturing and testing major parts for Artemis missions III, IV and V.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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Artemis: The Good, the Bad and the Well, Yeah

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and top officials provided an update on the Artemis program on Tuesday, delivering the not unexpected news that the space agency will not meet its deadline of landing a man and the first woman of color at the south pole of the moon in 2024. Instead, the landing will be delayed until at least 2025.

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Next Generation of Orion Spacecraft in Production for Future Artemis Missions

Now complete, the crew module pressure vessel for Artemis III will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the team will start integrating the spacecraft’s systems and subsystems. Photo taken August 27, 2021. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — Over the next decade, NASA’s Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts during Artemis missions to the Moon to help prepare for human missions to Mars. Work on the spacecraft for Artemis I is nearly complete, Artemis II is well underway, and NASA is making progress on vehicles for the missions beyond.

The agency recently completed welding on the Artemis III Orion pressure vessel, the underlying frame of the air-tight capsule for astronauts called the crew module. This structure is the first major piece of hardware in Orion’s production phase with lead contractor Lockheed Martin.

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Surprise! NASA Artemis Lunar Program Schedule Likely to Slip Again, 2024 Landing Unlikely

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest in a series of updates from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) says that despite making significant progress on the $86 billion Artemis program, the space agency’s schedule for returning astronauts to the moon in four years is likely to slip. [Full report]

“Nonetheless, the Agency faces significant challenges that we believe will make its current plan to launch Artemis I in 2021 and ultimately land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024 highly unlikely,” the update said.

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Three More Service Modules for Artemis to be Built in Europe

Artist’s impression of Orion over Earth. (Credit: NASA/ESA/ATG Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA signed a further contract with Airbus for the construction of three more European Service Modules for Orion, NASA’s spacecraft that will fly astronauts to the Moon and lunar Gateway as part of the Artemis programme.

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GAO: NASA Needs to Improve Artemis Management as New Schedule Delays Likely

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA needs to strengthen its management oversight of the lunar landing program to minimize delays and cost overruns as the space agency moves beyond the Artemis I flight test scheduled for November 2021, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO’s program review also found that schedule for the maiden flight of the Space Launch System and second Orion spacecraft does not account for delays resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

Vice President Mike Pence introduced the members of the Artemis Team Wednesday during the eighth National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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ArianeGroup to Deliver Key Orion Propulsion System Components for Artemis III Moon Mission

Orion near the moon (Credit: NASA)
  • Airbus Defence and Space has placed several propulsion contracts with ArianeGroup for the third European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Artemis Moon mission
  • ArianeGroup will be delivering several key components, including the attitude control system, as well as providing propulsion system integration and testing services
  • These contracts follow on from the decisions taken at ESA’s Space 19+ Conference

LAMPOLDSHAUSEN & BREMEN, Germany (ArianeGroup PR) — ArianeGroup has just signed several agreements with Airbus Defence and Space for the adaptation and construction of the third European Service Module (ESM) flight model for the Orion spacecraft. ArianeGroup will therefore:

— provide integration and testing services for the propulsion sub-system, as well as for certain parts of the thermal sub-system and the corresponding electronic sub-systems

— deliver several major components of the propulsion sub-system: notably 24 attitude control engines, two high-pressure regulators, various fuel valves, four fuel tanks, and two high-pressure helium tanks for pressurizing the fuel tanks in zero-gravity conditions

— provide technical support during system integration and acceptance of the Orion spacecraft’s ESM in the United States.

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Artemis: Back to the Future Past?

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, deploys two components of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity in 1969. A seismic experiment is in his left hand, and in his right is a laser-reflecting panel. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, mission commander, took this photograph. (Credits: NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center)

UPDATE: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was emphatic today that the first crewed landing and subsequent ones would land at the lunar south pole. He said remarks he made last week were misinterpreted.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For 18 months NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump Administration officials have repeatedly promised to land the next man and the first woman at the south pole of the moon in 2024.

Now, that plan has apparently changed.

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NASA to Highlight Artemis Booster Test with Live Broadcast, Media Teleconference

Teams have installed the flight support booster (FSB) for later versions of the solid rocket boosters on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket into the test stand in Promontory, Utah. NASA and Northrop Grumman, the SLS booster lead contractor, will conduct a two-minute, full-duration test with the booster on Sept. 2. (Credits: Northrop Grumman)

PROMONTORY, Utah (NASA PR) — NASA will broadcast a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket full-scale booster test at 2:40 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 2, on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed by a media teleconference.

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Eyes Forward as Artemis Missions Set to Begin Next Year

by Kathy Lueders
Associate Administrator for Human Spaceflight

Jumping headfirst into the Artemis program has been one of the highlights in my transition as the associate administrator for human spaceflight. With an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there was little time for a transition period as mission essential work needed to continue as safely as possible.

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