Technical issues with Lockheed Martin’s Orion capsule to delay next Artemis mission

It appears that technical issues with Lockheed Martin’s Orion capsule are one of the main reasons NASA has had to delay next Artemis mission, the first to put humans inside that capsule and then take them around the Moon.

In January 2024 it was reported that the mission would be delayed from a launch before the end of 2024 until 2025. We now know why:

NASA is working with Orion spacecraft prime contractor Lockheed Martin to resolve a handful of issues that came up late last year during ground testing, forcing the space agency to delay the launch readiness target date for its Artemis II circumlunar mission to September 2025. The Lockheed Martin assembly, test, and launch operations (ATLO) team at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is reinstalling some electronics and implementing workarounds for others affected by an electrical circuit flaw found in digital motor controllers on the spacecraft.

While a resolution to that issue appears to be getting closer, the Orion program and contractor teams are also working through the corrective actions process for a problem with how the Orion batteries handle the shock of an extreme abort case.

In other words, Lockheed Martin discovered these two electrical issues only last year, after spending almost two decades and more than $15 billion developing Orion.

As I predicted in January, “None of these dates will be met. I predict that further delays will be announced next year and the year after that, pushing all these missions back again, in small increments.” I also predicted that NASA will be lucky to land a human on the Moon by 2030, a mere fifteen years after its original target date of 2015, set by George Bush Jr. in 2004.

In the meantime, expect SpaceX’s Starship to begin regularly commercial and governmental flights to the Moon in the next five years. Long before SLS and Orion put humans on the Moon, Starship will be doing it privately for less cost.

ESA transfers its Artemis-2 Orion service module to NASA

The European Space Agency (ESA) yesterday officially handed over to NASA its second completed Orion service module, to be used in 2024 on the first manned Artemis mission, dubbed Artemis-2, that will carry four astronauts on a mission around the Moon.

The European Service Module-2 will power the Orion spacecraft on the Artemis II mission that will see NASA astronauts commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialists Christina Koch with Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen complete flyby of the Moon and return to Earth.

The crew will fly Orion to 8889 km beyond the Moon before completing a lunar flyby and returning to Earth. The mission will take a minimum of eight days and will collect valuable flight test data, in the first time for over 50 years that humans have voyaged to our natural satellite.

The odds of this launching in 2024 are relatively slim. It will also be the first time NASA will be flying Orion’s environmental systems (the systems that keep the astronauts alive). We all hope those system work perfectly this first time, since people will be on board.

NASA names four astronauts to fly on first manned Artemis mission around Moon

NASA today named the four astronauts who will fly on its Artemis-2 in a 10-day mission around the Moon, launched on SLS’s second launch in an Orion capsule and tentatively scheduled for late 2024.

The crew assignments are as follows: Commander Reid Wiseman, Pilot Victor Glover, Mission Specialist 1 Christina Hammock Koch, and Mission Specialist 2 Jeremy Hansen. They will work as a team to execute an ambitious set of demonstrations during the flight test.

The approximately 10-day Artemis II flight test will launch on the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket, prove the Orion spacecraft’s life-support systems, and validate the capabilities and techniques needed for humans to live and work in deep space.

The flight, set to build upon the successful uncrewed Artemis I mission completed in December, will set the stage for the first woman and first person of color on the Moon through the Artemis program, paving the way for future for long-term human exploration missions to the Moon, and eventually Mars. This is the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words illustrate some important facts. First, this first manned flight of Orion will also be the first that will use the capsule’s life-support systems, which were not included the first flight around the Moon in December. Thus, these four humans are essentially guinea pigs for this engineering. Seems such a plan should have been questioned by NASA’S corrupt safety panel, but then, it is corrupt, and never seems to have much problem with unsafe practices done by NASA itself. Instead, it spends a lot of time making up problems for SpaceX and missing problems at Boeing and NASA.

Second, note NASA’s emphasis on race and sex for the first landing on the Artemis-3 mission. Note too that Artemis-2 crew also includes a black and a woman. Though the press release wisely and correctly makes no mention of race when describing the four astronauts, it does tout the achievements of Christina Koch as a woman, not as a person.

Don’t get me wrong. It is good that a black and a woman are flying to the Moon. It just appears very clear that NASA now has a firm quota system, requiring one of each for every mission.

Finally, there is something not mentioned in the press release or on the Artemis-2 webpage that is very telling. Neither says anything about a launch date, which NASA had previously announced as November 2024. I have been predicting from the beginning that this date is a fantasy. It now appears NASA realizes it but is not yet ready to admit it publicly.