NASA Targets New November Launch Window for Artemis 1 – Tech21K
After several setbacks, NASA is targeting a new launch window for the Artemis 1 inaugural flight. If all goes well, the rocket will make a spectacular dark-skies launch just after midnight on Nov. 14.
In a blog post, the agency said, “Inspections and analyzes over the previous week have confirmed minimal work is required to prepare the rocket and spacecraft to roll out to Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida following the roll-back due to Hurricane Ian.”
Much of the work Artemis requires will concern the all-important insulation on the rocket’s fuel tanks. The agency uses cork and foam to dampen vibrations and provide insulation from thermal extremes. But the rocket sat on the pad for almost a year. the minor matter of Hurricane Ian. So, NASA says it’ll be doing a bit of “standard maintenance“ to repair minor damage to the cork and foam on the Space Launch System’s (SLS) thermal protection systemIn addition to the insulation, technicians have been wrangling the rocket’s flight termination system (FTS). and a brake. Likewise, the rocket must have a way to minimize damage by ending a failed flight at the right time.
Once these repairs are complete, NASA plans to roll the SLS and Orion back out to the launch pad “as early as Friday, Nov. 4.” Then, if all goes well, Artemis 1 will lift off during a 69-minute launch window That opens at 12:07 AM EST. This will be the agency’s third attempt to launch the beleaguered SLS rocket.
Third Time’s the Charm?
Artemis 1 will be a test flight. As such, no humans will be on board. Instead, NASA is sending up three mannequins. In the commander’s seat rides Commander Moonikin Campos, a nod to electrical engineer Arturo Campos, who was “instrumental in bringing Apollo 13 back to Earth.” Cmdr. Campos will be wearing a snazzy new space suit called the AstroRad: a joint project of the Israel Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center.
The flight will also carry two identical mannequin torsos. But these aren’t just any crash test dummies. These mannequins, which NASA also calls phantoms, are made out of materials that “mimic the human bones, soft tissues, and organs of an adult female.” Their names are Helga and Zohar.
They may be the same size, but these identical mannequin torsos will be testing different gear. The agency explains, “Despite sharing the trip, their missions will be different – Zohar will wear the AstroRad vest, while Helga will not. Female forms were chosen because women typically have greater sensitivity to the effects of space radiation.” But the AstroRad vest is designed to protect both men and women. After testing the AstroRad during Artemis 1, human passengers on future Artemis flights may benefit from its protection.
Many crash tests use mannequins the size of an adult male. Because males are statistically larger, safety gear often rests at different places on the female body, like a seatbelt that falls on the driver’s sternum but rides too high on a passenger’s neck. this means females are almost twice as likely to sustain injuries in a crash. So, to clean up the data and make sure all our astronauts have good gear, NASA is sending up mannequins (womannequins?) in sizes more inclusive of smaller bodies.
Should the mission launch during the Nov. 14 window, Artemis 1 will be a 25-day flight. This may or may not have much of an impact on how things go. For Artemis’ first launch attempt, the capsule would have been in orbit for 42 days. However, that long in space pushes the spacecraft’s design limits. Based on the SLS rocket’s persistent hardware issues, a more conservative flight may be the better outcome.
In any case, NASA has backup launch dates: November 16 and 19.
Feature image: NASA/Joel Kowsky