NASA’s Orion spacecraft passed a crucial final round test for the planned Artemis lunar program this week and Elon Musk’s dream of a viable satellite constellation got a big boost despite an engine failure.
The testing was performed at NASA’s Plum Brook Station testing facility in Sandusky, Ohio.
According to NASA, the spacecraft “aced” the tests that included thermal vacuum and electromagnetic interference performance checks, The Indian Express reported.
The Orion spacecraft is meant to fly the Artemis mission that is expected to “return the next American man and deliver the first American woman to the surface of the Moon by 2024.″
Things aren’t going as usual at NASA because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The space agency’s Marshall facility announced that it’s limiting access to “mission-essential personnel” after one staff member tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday night, the report said.
However, the space agency still managed to finish the testing at its Glenn research facility in Ohio, which is the site of testing facilities to simulate flight conditions, including wind tunnels and vacuum chambers, the report said.
Orion’s testing completion at Glenn means that the spacecraft is ready to move on to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
To reach there, the Lockheed-built Orion capsule will travel onboard the space agency’s Super Guppy aircraft — a specially-built cargo aircraft designed for the purposes of transporting larger-than-normal cargo, the report said.
NASA’s Artemis mission is the next chapter in the US agency’s space exploration program, leading to future missions such as sending astronauts to Mars.
Meanwhile, SpaceX launched 60 more of its internet satellites into orbit despite an engine failure shortly after liftoff on a recycled rocket flying a record five times, C4ISR.net reported.
SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said one of the nine main engines shut down prematurely during liftoff, a rare occurrence. But the satellites still made it to the proper orbit, increasing the Starlink constellation to about 360, the report said.
The US military has expressed interest in the Starlink’s capabilities. The latter is a satellite constellation consisting of thousands of mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), working in combination with ground transceivers.
SpaceX also plans to sell some of the satellites for military, scientific or exploratory purposes.
“Shows value of having 9 engines! Thorough investigation needed before next mission,” Musk tweeted.
It’s same type of rocket — a Falcon 9 — that SpaceX will use to launch NASA astronauts as early as May. Sunday’s launch attempt for these latest Starlinks was halted at the last second because of a bad engine reading, the report said.
“Last launch aborted due to slightly high power. Possibly, but not obviously, related to today,” Musk said.
This particular first-stage booster won’t be flying again. Instead of landing upright on a floating offshore platform, the booster missed and slammed into the Atlantic Ocean.