NASA is gearing up for its Artemis II mission, set to launch in November 2024. While data from Artemis I is still being processed, engineers and technicians are already hard at work preparing for the next rocket’s core stage assembly, upgrades to the launch facility, and an updated countdown. The goal is to have the Orion spacecraft stacked atop the SLS rocket on the mobile launcher by early 2024.
Howard Hu and his team are currently testing systems on both the crew module and service module of the Orion spacecraft. By mid-June, the two modules will be joined together and subjected to a new round of tests. Artemis II will feature new avionics hardware, including a life support system, display screens, and flight controls.
At the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana, John Honeycutt and his team are connecting the final segment to the SLS rocket’s core stage. The fully-assembled core stage will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center by June or July of 2023. In the Vehicle Assembly Building, engineers will assemble the entire spacecraft and mount the Orion capsule on top by early 2024.
Beyond the spacecraft itself, preparations for Artemis II’s launch also involve the Exploration Ground Systems team at Kennedy Space Center. They’ll need to test an emergency egress system and replace the shoes on the crawler that will carry the rocket and mobile launcher to the launch pad. Contractors are also working to repair the mobile launcher after the unexpected power of SLS’s thrusters caused damage to elevators, blast plates, and control panels.
Meanwhile, mission planners at Launch Control are revising the launch day countdown to account for crew donning spacesuits and entering the spacecraft. The team is also constructing a 1.4 million-gallon liquid hydrogen tank to reduce the time between launch attempts.
Despite the challenges faced during Artemis I’s wet dress rehearsals and multiple launch attempts, NASA is confident that Artemis II will not encounter the same issues. A tanking test will be performed prior to the launch, but wet dress rehearsals will not be necessary.
As NASA prepares for its next mission to the moon, it’s clear that a lot of hard work lies ahead.