NASA begins work on Orion capsule recycling • The Register

NASA’s Orion capsule — built to send the first woman and another man to the moon — has arrived at a US naval base in San Diego, California, and is being towed ashore for inspection.

The Podule has just returned from a relatively short trip into space. As part of the Artemis I mission, it was launched unmanned on the American rocket Space Launch System (SLS) as a kind of dress rehearsal. There is hope that the Orion will carry human crews to the moon in future missions. NASA is currently testing the capsule in the cold, unforgiving void beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

This particular mission — orbiting Orion and returning home — got off to a rocky start. The SLS rocket that launched the capsule into space was delayed for months by technical glitches and bad weather. When it finally launched in November, the capsule’s 25-day journey around the moon and back to our planet went smoothly.

Orion traveled 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) around the moon before returning to Earth and landing in the Pacific Ocean. The US Navy recovered the spacecraft and returned it to Naval Base San Diego this week aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Portland. It will be offloaded and returned to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

When Orion arrives, officials will begin post-flight analysis. NASA will examine the capsule and its myriad hardware components. The spacecraft must be tough enough to survive deep space and the searing journey back to Earth through its atmosphere. On its return, the capsule endured temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,7600 °C) as it sped through the atmosphere.

Some parts of Orion are likely to be reused for the upcoming Artemis II mission if they are in good condition. Guidance, navigation and control systems; radio communication antennas; transponders; and video processing hardware are the best candidates for recycling. In the future, NASA wants to reuse other components such as the pressure vessel and heat shield in order to keep operating costs low – after all, Orion should be reusable.

Artemis I tested the flight capabilities of Orion and the SLS heavy launch vehicle. Artemis II gets more ambitious and tricky as NASA hopes to send a crew of four astronauts into the capsule aboard the rocket to orbit the moon and return to Earth. It is planned that this mission will fly as early as 2024.

Artemis III, currently on the drawing board and not planned, will be the mission to land the first woman and one other man on the lunar surface – more than 50 years since humans made that one giant leap for mankind. ® NASA begins work on Orion capsule recycling • The Register

Rick Schindler

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