Science

“Exceeding expectations” – the Orion spacecraft made its first inspection

“Exceeding expectations” – the Orion spacecraft made its first inspection

“Exceeding expectations” – the Orion spacecraft made its first inspection


On the third day of the Artemis I mission, Orion maneuvered its solar arrays and imaged the Moon with a camera mounted at the end of the array. The spacecraft is now halfway to the moon. credit:[{” attribute=””>NASA

On the third day of its Artemis I journey, NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft is now more than halfway to the Moon.

“Today, we met to review the Orion spacecraft performance, and it is exceeding performance expectations,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager.

Flight controllers used Orion’s cameras on Friday to inspect the crew module thermal protection system and European Service Module. This was the first of two planned external evaluations for the spacecraft. Teams conducted this survey early in the mission to provide detailed images of the spacecraft’s external surfaces after it has flown through the portion of Earth’s orbit where the majority of space debris resides.

The second inspection is required during the return phase to assess the overall condition of the spacecraft several days before re-entry. During both inspections, the Integrated Communications Officer, or INCO, commands cameras on the four solar array wings to take still images of the entire spacecraft, allowing experts to pinpoint any micrometeoroid or orbital debris strikes. The team in mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will review the imagery following the survey.


Artemis All Access is your look at the latest on Artemis I, the people and technology behind the mission and what’s next. This unmanned lunar flight test will pave the way for a manned flight test and future human lunar exploration as part of Artemis. Credit: NASA

Over the past few days, the team evaluated anomalous star tracker data that correlated with thruster firing. Star trackers are sensitive cameras that record the star field around Orion. By comparing the images to its built-in star map, the star tracker can determine which way Orion is oriented. The teams now understand the readings and there are no operational changes.

NASA also received updates from the teams attached to the 10 CubeSats that were delivered into space on a ring attached to the upper stage of the Space Launch System rocket. All 10 CubeSats were successfully deployed via the timer from the adapter. The CubeSats’ individual missions are separate from Artemis I. The small satellites, each about the size of a shoebox, are inherently high-risk, high-reward, and the teams are at different stages of mission or problem-solving in some cases.

NASA hosted a briefing on Friday (see video embedded below) showing Orion’s arrival in the Moon’s sphere of influence. To follow the mission in real time, you can track Orion during your mission around the moon and back, and check NASA TV schedule for updates on upcoming television events. The first episode of Artemis All Access is now available (see video embedded above) as a recap of the first three days of the mission with a look at what’s to come.


From NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA previews the Orion spacecraft’s entry into the Moon’s sphere of influence and a pair of maneuvers that will propel the spacecraft into a distant retrograde lunar orbit. Briefing participants include:

  • Mike Sarafin, Artemis I Mission Manager, NASA Headquarters
  • Jeff Radigan, Flight Director, NASA Johnson
  • Jim Geffre, Orion Vehicle Integration Manager, NASA Johnson

Orion’s entry into the lunar sphere of influence will make the Moon, rather than the Earth, the main gravitational force acting on the spacecraft. Flight controllers will perform an exit flight drive to harness the force of the Moon’s gravity, accelerate the spacecraft and direct it toward a distant retrograde orbit beyond the Moon. During the powered exit flyby, Orion will come close – approximately 80 miles – above the surface of the Moon. Four days later, another burn using the European Service Module will put Orion into a distant retrograde orbit, where it will remain for about a week to test the spacecraft’s systems.





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