NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Ready for Deep Space Tests

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft are ready for an uncrewed test flight around the Moon on Monday.

This is the first in a series of increasingly complicated tests under the Artemis 1 mission, working towards getting humans back on the Moon and eventually onto Mars.

Monday’s launch will be NASA’s first moon rocket test flight since 1967. For the first time in a generation, this human spacecraft designed for deep-space missions will usher in a new era of space exploration. If Orion returns from the Moon as planned, astronauts could be setting off on their own mission around the Moon in 2023 before actually landing there in 2025.

“We are go for launch, which is absolutely outstanding. This day has been a long time coming,” commented Robert Cana, NASA Associate Administrator. “I’m a product of the Apollo generation, and look what it did for us. I cannot wait to see what comes from the Artemis generation because I think it’s going to inspire even more than Apollo did.”

The entire spacecraft stands at 322 feet, which is almost as tall as The Shard in London. SLS, which will catapult the Orion capsule into space, has been dubbed the most powerful rocket ever built.

NASA has now extended Orion’s initial 21-day mission to 42 days. Once the spacecraft has orbited the Moon, it will have travelled around 40,000 miles beyond the far side of the Moon - further than any crewed spacecraft has travelled before. The craft will spend around two weeks in orbit before returning to Earth for an ocean splashdown.

“We are pushing the vehicle to its limits, really stressing it to get ready for crew. It is incredibly risky,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, Jim Free.

Launch is set for Monday 29th August from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, 8:33am local time (1:33pm in the UK). While many space-enthusiasts will flock to watch liftoff in person, you can also catch it on NASA’s website, their app and or their YouTube channel.

NASA’s Artemis 1 mission heralds a huge leap in space exploration. This is an incredibly exciting time not just for the space community, but for the whole of humanity. As NASA prepares for this mission milestone, we can’t wait to see where this extraordinary project takes us.