the flight of “Artemis I is the only way to know if we have worked well”

This first flight of Artemis is an unmanned test flight which will be used to qualify the launcher Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion vehicle with, therefore, several objectives. Unsurprisingly, NASA will want to ensure the correct sizing of the capsule’s heat shield, which will be the only protection for astronauts when they return to Earth. The frequent round trips between Earth and the Space Station are not comparable with a return to Earth from a lunar mission, the speed of re-entry into the atmosphere of a return mission from the Moon being much higher than a mission back from orbit, eleven kilometers per second against “only” seven kilometers per second.

The in-flight behavior of the service module of the Orion vehicle, provided by the European Space Agency and under the supervision of Airbus, will also be closely monitored. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) want to push it to its limits and test it inside its flight envelope, so as to see under what conditions and how it can operate in various configurations. The propulsion system of theEuropean service module (ESM) will therefore be at the heart of the tests that NASA hopes to carry out, and particularly scrutinized.

Orion's service module at various times during its construction.  This module is in the form of a cylinder about four meters high and wide.  © Airbus, Thales Alenia Space

Orion’s service module at various times during its construction. This module is in the form of a cylinder about four meters high and wide. © Airbus, Thales Alenia Space

As Philippe Deloo, in charge of the service module (ESM) project at ESA, points out, it is the ” first time the system will be tested in space “. True, the ESM module has already “ been tested on the ground but the representativeness of the ground tests is never 100% “. There, we will be able to refine our models. ” We will learn a lot with this flight “, he says. For Airbus, this test flight should remove several development uncertainties and qualify the module for the following missions, including Artemis III which will bring a crew of…

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