California’s connection to NASA’s Artemis 1 mission to the moon

After technical scrubs and delays caused by two different hurricanes, NASA’s Artemis 1 mission to the moon launched successfully at 10:47 pm PST on Tuesday. Planning for the mission, which aims to further scientists’ understanding of the impacts of prolonged deep space travel for humans, began in 2010. A brand new type of launch vehicle, known as the Space Launch System was front and center for liftoff. On top was the also new Orion space capsule, designed to eventually transport astronauts back to the moon and beyond. While Artemis 1 is an unmanned mission, scientists will use this nearly month-long trip to lunar orbit and back as an opportunity to gather data on deep space travel and daily conditions on the moon’s surface. NASA Chief Exploration Scientist Jacob Bleacher said this makes Artemis 1 a gateway to new destinations.”Artemis is really turning the page on a new chapter of space exploration. We’re basically writing the blueprint now for how we explore the solar system,” said bleacher. “We learned how to live in space with the International Space Station. And now we need to learn how to go and live in deep space.”The SLS rocket is the most powerful that the US has ever built and it took an immense amount of collaboration to get it to the launchpad. NASA refers to the SLS as “America’s Rocket,” a nod to the fact that companies from each of the 50 states contributed to the build in some way.California had many contributors, including Sacramento-based company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which builds propulsion systems for air and space travel. Doug Bradley is the deputy program manager for the RS-25 engine program at Aerojet Rocketdyne. Bradley says RS-25 engines, which were also used in the space shuttle programs, were just the first of many Aerojet Rocketdyne engines to make an appearance Tuesday night.”From top to bottom of the rocket, we’ve got a role,” Bradley said. That includes four RS-25 engines, which propelled the SLS rocket for exactly eight minutes once the boosters were released. Within that time span, a powerful jettison motor ejected to rocket’s abort system.”Those were designed and fabricated in Sacramento, so that’s a pretty cool heritage there,” Bradley said.WATCH: Video shows how Artemis 1 launch appeared to turn night to dayAs of Wednesday evening, all that’s left to track for the mission is the Orion space capsule, which is cruising to the moon guided by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL-10 engines. According to NASA, Orion should reach its lunar orbital position sometime on Tuesday, Nov. 22.Orion will orbit the moon for several weeks, gathering important data as it orbits.When the time comes for Earth’s atmosphere re-entry and an ocean landing in December, Aerojet Rocketdyne engines will be featured again. “Our company even has the little helium tanks that blow up the little floaties on the capsule to keep it upright,” said Bradley with a chuckle. When he said they have a role “from top to bottom,” he meant it. Bradley says that while he’s not from Sacramento himself, he’s honored to represent the area on such a big stage. “I’m proud … everybody’s proud of our role in Artemis,” he said.

After technical scrubs and delays caused by two different hurricanes, NASA’s Artemis 1 mission to the moon launched successfully at 10:47 pm PST on Tuesday.

Planning for the mission, which aims to further scientists’ understanding of the impacts of prolonged deep space travel for humans, began in 2010.

A brand new type of launch vehicle, known as the Space Launch System was front and center for liftoff. On top was the also new Orion space capsule, designed to eventually transport astronauts back to the moon and beyond.

While Artemis 1 is an unmanned mission, scientists will use this nearly month-long trip to lunar orbit and back as an opportunity to gather data on deep space travel and daily conditions on the moon’s surface.

NASA Chief Exploration Scientist Jacob Bleacher said this makes Artemis 1 a gateway to new destinations.

“Artemis is really turning the page on a new chapter of space exploration. We’re basically writing the blueprint now for how we explore the solar system,” said Bleacher. “We learned how to live in space with the International Space Station. And now we need to learn how to go and live in deep space.”

The SLS rocket is the most powerful that the US has ever built and it took an immense amount of collaboration to get it to the launchpad. NASA refers to the SLS as “America’s Rocket,” a nod to the fact that companies from each of the 50 states contributed to the build in some way.

California had many contributors, including Sacramento-based company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which builds propulsion systems for air and space travel.

Doug Bradley is the deputy program manager for the RS-25 engine program at Aerojet Rocketdyne. Bradley says RS-25 engines, which were also used in the space shuttle programs, were just the first of many Aerojet Rocketdyne engines to make an appearance Tuesday night.

“From top to bottom of the rocket, we’ve got a role,” Bradley said.

That includes four RS-25 engines, which propelled the SLS rocket for exactly eight minutes once the boosters were released. Within that time span, a powerful jettison motor ejected to rocket’s abort system.

“Those were designed and fabricated in Sacramento, so that’s a pretty cool heritage there,” Bradley said.

WATCH: Video shows how Artemis 1 launch appeared to turn night to day

As of Wednesday evening, all that’s left to track for the mission is the Orion space capsule, which is cruising to the moon guided by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL-10 engines. According to NASA, Orion should reach its lunar orbital position sometime on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

Orion will orbit the moon for several weeks, gathering important data as it orbits.

When the time comes for Earth’s atmosphere re-entry and an ocean landing in December, Aerojet Rocketdyne engines will be featured again.

“Our company even has the little helium tanks that blow up the little floaties on the capsule to keep it upright,” said Bradley with a chuckle.

When he said they have a role “from top to bottom,” he meant it.

Bradley says that while he’s not from Sacramento himself, he’s honored to represent the area on such a big stage.

“I’m proud … everybody’s proud of our role in Artemis,” he said.

Plans for the Artemis 2 mission, which will involve astronauts, are well underway with a launch tentatively expected sometime in 2024.

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