NASA’s Mega Moon Rocket Passes Key Review for Artemis I Mission

A close-up view of the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket inside High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 20, 2021. All 10 levels of work platforms have been retracted from around the rocket as part of the umbilical release and retract test. (Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA has completed the design certification review (DCR) for the Space Launch System Program (SLS) rocket ahead of the Artemis I mission to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The review examined all the SLS systems, all test data, inspection reports, and analyses that support verification, to ensure every aspect of the rocket is technically mature and meets the requirements for SLS’s first flight on Artemis I.

(more…)

Orion Stage Adapter Readied for Ride on Artemis I

CubeSats installed for the Artemis I mission. (Credit: NASA/Cory Huston)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Technicians continue to prepare small satellites, called CubeSats, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for their upcoming launch on the Artemis I mission. Technicians from the agency’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs worked with developers of the shoebox-sized secondary payloads as they underwent final processing and were secured inside the Orion stage adapter.

The ring-shaped stage adapter will be connected to the Space Launch System (SLS) Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, and the Orion spacecraft will be secured on top. All CubeSats will be deployed after SLS completes its primary mission, launching the Orion spacecraft on a trajectory toward the Moon. Although small in size, the CubeSats will conduct a variety of science experiments and technology demonstrations including some that will expand our knowledge of the lunar surface during the Artemis I mission.

Artemis I will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and the ground systems at Kennedy. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

NASA Deep Space Exploration Budget Request Fact Sheet

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

NASA FACT SHEET
FY 2022 Budget Request
Deep Space Exploration Systems
($ Millions)

The FY 2022 Budget for the Deep Space Exploration Systems account consists of two areas, Exploration Systems Development (ESD) and Exploration Research and Development (ERD), which provide for the development of systems and capabilities needed for the human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

(more…)

Artemis I Core Stage Transported to Its New Home

Artemis I core stage in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) core stage for the Artemis I mission arrived on April 27, 2021, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The core stage arrived aboard the Pegasus barge from NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf.

The core stage is shown being transported into the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building on a self-propelled module transporter on April 29, 2021. Teams from the center’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs will perform checkouts ahead of integrating the massive rocket stage with the twin solid rocket boostersOrion spacecraft, and additional flight hardware ahead of the Artemis I launch.

Artemis I will be the first integrated test of SLS and Orion and will pave the way for landing the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface. It will be a proving ground for deep space exploration, leading the agency’s efforts under the Artemis program for a sustainable presence on the Moon and preparing for human missions to Mars.

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.

(more…)

COVID-19 Delays to Cost NASA $3 Billion

High-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will cost NASA an estimated $3 billion due to program delays, according to a report from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

The report focused on the pandemic’s impact on 30 major programs and project with life-cycle costs of at least $250 million.

(more…)

NASA’s $85 Billion Artemis Program

Credit: NASA OIG

The NASA Office of Inspector General released this snap shot of the space agency’s Artemis program to land astronauts on the moon. Total projected cost through fiscal year 2025: $85.7 billion. Only $35.2 billion has been obligated. An addition $50.5 billion has been requested.

Credit: NASA OIG

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.

(more…)

Bolden Says SLS “Will Go Away,” Expects Few Other Changes at NASA if Biden Elected

Charles Bolden

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says he expects the agency’s expensive Space Launch System (SLS) will go away under during the next presidential term.

“SLS will go away. It could go away during a Biden administration or a next Trump administration … because at some point commercial entities are going to catch up,” he told Politico. “They are really going to build a heavy lift launch vehicle sort of like SLS that they will be able to fly for a much cheaper price than NASA can do SLS. That’s just the way it works.”

Congress will have something to say about the giant rocket designed to return astronauts to the moon under NASA’s Artemis program. Legislators have protected SLS and its two related programs, the Orion spacecraft and Exploration Ground Systems, despite large cost overruns and years of delays.

(more…)

Orion Completes Key Review for Artemis I Mission

Orion fitted to its adapter for the Artemis I mission. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) –NASA’s Orion Program has completed the System Acceptance Review and Design Certification Review to certify the Artemis I spacecraft is fit for flight, ready to venture from Earth to the lunar vicinity, and return home for landing and recovery.

The review examined every spacecraft system, all test data, inspection reports, and analyses that support verification, to ensure every aspect of the spacecraft has the right technical maturity.

In effect, the review gives the stamp of approval to the entire spacecraft development effort and is the final formal milestone to pass before integration with the Space Launch System rocket.

In addition to spacecraft design, the review certified all reliability and safety analyses, production quality and configuration management systems, and operations manuals.

Orion, the Space Launch System, and Exploration Ground Systems programs are foundational elements of the Artemis program, beginning with Artemis I, the first integrated flight test of Orion and SLS next year. Artemis II will follow as the first human mission, taking astronauts farther into space than ever before.

GAO: NASA Performance on Major Projects Continues to Deteriorate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest assessment of NASA’s major projects at the end of April. It found that NASA’s performance on its major projects continued to deteriorate on cost and schedule. (Full Report)

Below are key excerpts from the report that provide an overview of where NASA stands on its major projects. Although GAO did not analyze the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, the watchdog warned the Trump Administration’s decision to move the landing date up from 2028 to 2024 will put more pressure on the space agency.

“Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame,” the report stated.

(more…)

NASA Prepares To Send Artemis I Booster Segments to Kennedy for Stacking

Artemis I solid rocket booster. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

PROMONTORY POINT, Utah (NASA PR) — As it soars off the launch pad for the Artemis I missions, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is powered by two solid rocket boosters. Critical parts of the booster will soon head to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the Artemis I launch.

Specialized transporters move each of the 10 solid rocket motor segments from the Northrop Grumman facility in their Promontory Point, Utah, to a departure point where they will leave for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The cross-country journey is an important milestone toward the first launch of NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

Exploration Ground Systems teams at Kennedy will begin processing the segments with the forward and aft parts of the booster previously assembled in the Booster Fabrication Facility on site at Kennedy.

When the boosters arrive, they are moved into the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) that in the past to processed shuttle booster segments. Initial stacking of the aft assembly will occur here, and then booster segments will be kept at the RPSF until stacking on the mobile launcher inside Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS, along with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the Human Landing System and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Make Progress as SLS/Orion Launch Slips

A liquid hydrogen storage tank is photographed at Launch Pad 39B on Nov. 8, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) required for NASA’s Artemis moon program are making progress as the first flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft continues to slip into the future.

“According to officials, most of the infrastructure needed for the Artemis I is nearing operational readiness. Currently, the program plans to finish the system acceptance and operational readiness reviews for vehicle stacking in September 2020,” according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

(more…)

Audit: NASA Making Progress With Artemis Software

The first Artemis rocket stage is guided toward NASA’s Pegasus barge Jan. 8 ahead of its forthcoming journey to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has made progress in improving the development of software for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) booster and Orion spacecraft that will take American astronauts back to the moon, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The software is on track to be ready for the first launch of SLS and an automated Orion capsule in 2021, the review found. However, challenges remain in the over budget and behind schedule effort.

(more…)

NASA Budget Proposal Laser Focused on the Moon

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Determined to land astronauts on the moon in time for the 2024 presidential election, the Trump Administration has proposed boosting NASA’s budget by 12 percent, an increase that includes $3.37 billion program for a human lander.

The $25.2 billion plan for fiscal year 2021 is $2.69 billion above the current spending level. More than half the amount, $12.95 billion, would be spent on human space operations in Earth orbit and preparing for missions to the moon.

How the proposal will fair in Congress is unclear. To boost Artemis spending, the Administration has proposed a number of cuts that Congress has rejected in previous Trump budgets. Those reductions include:

(more…)