Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Artemis-1: Nasa lost contact with Orion spacecraft for 47 minutes

For 47 minutes on Wednesday, Nasa lost contact with its biggest mission underway in lunar orbit. The American space agency lost the signal both to and from the Orion spacecraft, forcing it to reconfigure the communication link between Orion and the Deep Space Network overnight.

Engineers were, however, able to re-establish contact and resolve the issue with a reconfiguration on the ground side. Nasa said that reconfiguration has been conducted successfully several times in the last few days, and the team is investigating the cause of the loss of signal.

“Engineers are examining data from the event to help determine what happened, and the command and data handling officer will be downlinking data recorded onboard Orion during the outage to include in that assessment,” Nasa said, claiming that there was no impact to Orion and that the spacecraft remains in a healthy configuration.

Orion Exits the Lunar Sphere Of Influence
Meanwhile, the spacecraft has exited the lunar sphere of influence as it continues to travel farther away from the Moon as it prepares to enter a distant retrograde orbit. The spacecraft in its next leg of the journey will go farther than any spacecraft built to take humans into space.

The new orbit is distant in the sense that it’s at a high altitude from the surface of the Moon, and it’s retrograde because Orion will travel around the Moon opposite the direction the Moon travels around Earth. The spacecraft will reach its farthest distance from the Moon on Friday.

The distant retrograde orbit insertion burn is the second in a pair of maneuvers required to propel Orion into a highly stable orbit that requires minimal fuel consumption while traveling around the Moon.

While in transit to the distant retrograde orbit, engineers conducted the first part of the propellant tank slosh development flight test, called prop slosh, which is scheduled during quiescent, or less active, parts of the mission. The test calls for flight controllers to fire the reaction control system thrusters when propellant tanks are filled to different levels.

While it is on a journey around the Moon, Orion has no lunar lander; a touchdown won’t come until NASA astronauts attempt a lunar landing in 2025 with SpaceX’s Starship. Before then, astronauts will strap into Orion for a ride around the moon as early as 2024.

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