Artemis 1 and ispace lander set November launch dates

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Artemis 1 mission and a Japanese lander are scheduled to launch to the Moon from Florida within days of each other in November.

NASA announced on October 12 that it had scheduled the launch of the Artemis 1 mission for November 14 from Kennedy Space Center. The launch would take place during a 69-minute window that opens at 12:07 a.m. Eastern Time. Backup launch windows are available on November 16 at 1:04 a.m. Eastern Time and November 19 at 1:45 a.m. Eastern Time, each lasting two hours.

The agency said inspections of the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft after it returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Sept. 27 revealed “minimal work” needed to prepare them for another launch attempt. This work includes repairing minor damage to the rocket’s thermal protection system from previous launch attempts and tests, and replacing or recharging the rocket’s flight termination system batteries. NASA expects the vehicle to be ready to return to Launch Complex 39B as early as November 4.

NASA flew the rocket back to VAB to protect it from Hurricane Ian as the storm swept through Florida. This ruled out launch opportunities in late September and early October, and the rollback meant NASA couldn’t try again during an open launch window in the second half of October.

New launch opportunities are close to the start of the next launch period. NASA pursues these opportunities although they are at night. Agency officials suggested earlier that they preferred to launch during the day for better tracking of the SLS on its maiden flight, but that would have required waiting until at least November 22, in the latter half of the period. launch.

Artemis 1’s new launch date means it’s now expected to launch within days of a commercial lunar lander mission. The Japanese company ispace announced on October 12 that it intended to launch its first HAKUTO-R lander on a Falcon 9 between November 9 and 15 from Cape Canaveral.

The M1 lander completed testing last month at a facility in Germany and is being prepared for shipment to the launch site. The lander carries various payloads, including a small lunar rover called Rashid developed by the United Arab Emirates.

“For me, this is an important step on the way to realizing our vision, but I am already proud of our results,” ispace Chief Executive Takeshi Hakamada said in a statement. “I look forward to watching the launch alongside all of our employees and those who have supported us.”

This timeline puts ispace ahead of two US companies that are also preparing lunar landers for launch. Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines had planned to launch their first lander missions before the end of the year, carrying payloads that included those provided by NASA through its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. However, Intuitive Machines said over the summer that the Falcon 9 launch of its IM-1 mission would slip into early 2023.

Astrobotic, which was on United Launch Alliance’s inaugural Vulcan Centaur mission, had staged a 2022 launch until Oct. 10, when ULA announced it was postponing the launch to the first quarter of 2023 to give Astrobotic more time. to complete his lander. It was unclear whether Vulcan itself would be ready for launch this year due to delays in delivering the BE-4 engines that power its first stage.

In an October 10 statement, Astrobotic chief executive John Thornton said his company would release more details of its launch plans in the near future, but noted that the lander had recently returned to company headquarters. in Pittsburgh after completing pressure testing of its propulsion. system.

“We are now proceeding with the final assembly of the spacecraft which includes the installation of the solar panel as well as avionics, sensors, communication equipment and payloads, which are already tested and integrated with their corresponding bridges” , did he declare. “As Peregrine begins her journey to the Moon in early 2023, it will be an incredible achievement for Astrobotic, the City of Pittsburgh, and the space industry as a whole.”

Tokyo-based ispace is not directly part of the CLPS program. However, his US office is part of a team led by Draper who won a CLPS award in July for a lander mission on the far side of the moon, which is scheduled to launch in 2025.

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