Artemis Program of NASA - an Overview
In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond. 1)
Figure 1: Representatives of Congress and the National Space Council joined President Donald J. Trump, Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt and current NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson Monday, 11 December 2017, for the president's signing of Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond (image credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
The policy calls for the NASA administrator to "lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities." The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.
"The directive I am signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery," said President Trump. "It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond."
The policy grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, after its first meeting Oct. 5. In addition to the direction to plan for human return to the Moon, the policy also ends NASA's existing effort to send humans to an asteroid. The president revived the National Space Council in July to advise and help implement his space policy with exploration as a national priority.
"Under President Trump's leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts," said Vice President Pence. "As the President has said, space is the ‘next great American frontier' – and it is our duty – and our destiny – to settle that frontier with American leadership, courage, and values. The signing of this new directive is yet another promise kept by President Trump."
Among other dignitaries on hand for the signing, were NASA astronauts Sen. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson and Christina Koch. Schmitt landed on the moon 45 years to the minute that the policy directive was signed as part of NASA's Apollo 17 mission, and is the most recent living person to have set foot on our lunar neighbor. Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Whitson spoke to the president from space in April aboard the International Space Station and while flying back home after breaking the record for most time in space by a U.S. astronaut in September. Koch is a member of NASA's astronaut class of 2013.
"NASA looks forward to supporting the president's directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond," said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. "This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement. Our workforce is committed to this effort, and even now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space. The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path."
• February 7, 2019: As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA announced plans on Dec. 13 to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028. 2)
Through multi-phased lunar exploration partnerships, NASA is asking American companies to study the best approach to landing astronauts on the Moon and start the development as quickly as possible with current and future anticipated technologies.
"Building on our model in low-Earth orbit, we'll expand our partnerships with industry and other nations to explore the Moon and advance our missions to farther destinations such as Mars, with America leading the way," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "When we send astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the next decade, it will be in a sustainable fashion."
The agency's leading approach to sending humans to the Moon is using a system of three separate elements that will provide transfer, landing, and safe return. A key aspect of this proposed approach is to use the Gateway for roundtrip journeys to and from the surface of the Moon.
Using the Gateway to land astronauts on the Moon allows the first building blocks for fully reusable lunar landers. Initially NASA expects two of the lander elements to be reusable and refueled by cargo ships carrying fuel from Earth to the Gateway. The agency is also working on technologies to make rocket propellants using water ice and regolith from the Moon. Once the ability to harness resources from the Moon for propellant becomes viable, NASA plans to refuel these elements with the Moon's own resources. This process, known as ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilization), will make the third element also refuelable and reusable.
NASA published a formal request for proposals to an appendix of the second Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) on 7 February, and responses are due 25 March 2019.
According to the solicitation, NASA will fund industry-led development and flight demonstrations of lunar landers built for astronauts by supporting critical studies and risk reduction activities to advance technology requirements, tailor applicable standards, develop technology, and perform initial demonstrations by landing on the Moon.
When NASA again sends humans to the Moon, the surface will be buzzing with new research and robotic activity, and there will be more opportunities for discovery than ever before. Private sector innovation is key to these NASA missions, and the NextSTEP public-private partnership model is advancing capabilities for human spaceflight while stimulating commercial activities in space.
What is Artemis?
She was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology. Now, she personifies our path to the Moon as the name of NASA's program to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024, including the first woman and the next man. When they land, our American astronauts will step foot where no human has ever been before: the Moon's South Pole. 3)
Working with U.S. companies and international partners, NASA will push the boundaries of human exploration forward to the Moon for this program. As a result of Artemis, NASA will be able to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 to uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements, and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.
With our goal of sending humans to Mars, Artemis is the first step to begin this next era of exploration.
How are we getting there? 4)
NASA is building a spacecraft to take astronauts to deep space that will usher in a new era of space exploration. Orion will take us farther than we've gone before, and dock with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will carry up to four crew members and is designed to support astronauts traveling hundreds of thousands of miles from home, where getting back to Earth takes days rather than hours.
Both distance and duration demand Orion to have systems that can reliably operate far from home, be capable of keeping astronauts alive in case of emergencies and still be light enough that a rocket can launch it.
A Series of Challenging Missions: NASA will launch Orion on the agency's powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, from a modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On the first integrated mission, known as EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1), an uncrewed Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about three weeks. A series of increasingly challenging missions with crew will follow including a test flight around the Moon before operational missions to the Gateway.
NASA's SLS (Space Launch System) is a powerful, advanced rocket for a new era of human exploration beyond Earth's orbit. With unprecedented power capabilities, SLS will launch astronauts aboard the agency's Orion spacecraft on missions to explore deep space.
SLS is designed to safely send humans to deep space and can support a variety of complex missions. It will also open new possibilities for payloads, including robotic scientific missions to places like Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
- Offering more payload mass, volume capability and energy to speed missions through space than any other rocket.
- SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and large cargo to the Moon on a single mission.
- SLS is America's rocket with more than 1,000 companies from across the U.S. and every NASA center supporting its development.
NASA and its partners are designing and developing a small spaceship in orbit around the Moon for astronauts, science and technology demonstrations known as the Gateway. Located about 380,000 km from Earth, the Gateway will enable access to the entire surface of the Moon and provide new opportunities in deep space for exploration.
This new era of sustainable human exploration requires advanced technologies that are efficient, affordable and reliable. Solar electric propulsion offers these benefits and is a key technology for the Gateway. The first element to launch to space will be the power and propulsion element in 2022. This alternative propulsion system will enrich exploration at the Moon by enabling orbit transfers and reusable space tugs to and from the lunar surface.
• May 31, 2019: NASA has just announced a major step forward in its plan to send astronauts to the Moon by 2024: task order awards to three commercial partners to deliver NASA science and technology instruments to the Moon. This is one of many recent milestones to come in our new Artemis program to explore the Moon. 5)
On 9 April 2019, NASA expressed its commitment to a timeline of landing humans on the lunar south pole by 2024, The agency's lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phased approach: the first is focused on speed – landing astronauts on the Moon in five years – while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. NASA will use an orbiting lunar outpost called Gateway to access the Moon. The agency is targeting launch of the power and propulsion element in late 2022.
Planning this program requires many different pieces, including new technologies and partnerships. Developments on all fronts are moving ahead rapidly. Here's a summary of recent progress with Artemis.
A Charge Forward
The Artemis program will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024 and develop a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028. The program takes its name from the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.
Our Moon to Mars exploration approach is outlined in Space Policy Directive-1, which President Trump signed into law in December 2017. In one of the first steps to accomplish this bold goal, NASA announced its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, in which companies under contract can bid on delivering science and technology payloads to the Moon. These public-private partnerships will be essential to the development of Artemis program by helping us study the Moon ahead of a human return.
Astronaut Health Projects Selected
Astronauts face a very different environment in space than on Earth, and scientists are still investigating the many possible impacts of spaceflight on the human body. On April 30, NASA selected 12 proposals for projects related to studying astronaut health and performance during future long-duration missions beyond low-Earth orbit. These include what effects stress and sleep disturbances in space may have on the brain function, as well as how the immune system responds to simulated microgravity.
The 12 projects will help prepare astronauts for what they may experience on missions to the Moon, and eventually Mars.
Sending humans to the Moon by 2024 will require funds specifically for this endeavor. On May 13, President Trump announced a budget amendment for fiscal year 2020 of $1.6 billion to put NASA on track to accomplish this feat.
New Technologies from Small Business
A sustainable human presence on the Moon and sending astronauts to Mars will require a variety of new innovations. On 14 May, NASA announced small business awards totaling $106 million that included technologies in the areas of human exploration and operations, space technology, science, and aeronautics. The awards green-lit 142 proposals from 129 U.S. small businesses.
Many of these selected projects have direct applications to Artemis and other future human exploration endeavors. For example, the technology behind solar panels that deploy like venetian blinds can be used as a surface power source for crewed missions on the Moon and Mars.
Human Lander Prototypes
NASA is planning to get astronauts to the lunar surface and back through a multi-part landing system. They will start on the Gateway orbiting lunar outpost and ride down to low-lunar orbit in a spacecraft called a "transfer element." Then, a different spacecraft called the "descent element" will take them down to the Moon's surface. An ascent element will take them back to the Gateway. NASA is investigating ways to make these systems reusable through refueling.
On 16 May 2019, NASA selected 13 companies, to advance technology to land humans on the Moon. The companies will conduct studies and build prototypes for the Artemis program. These projects will relate to the descent, transfer, and refueling elements of a potential human landing system.
Power and Propulsion Element
The ambitious Gateway lunar outpost, which will enable access to more of the Moon than ever before, will need power, propulsion and communications capabilities. On May 23, NASA announced that Maxar Technologies, formerly SSL, in Westminster, Colorado, would develop and demonstrate these capabilities for the Gateway through a component called the "power and propulsion element."
The power and propulsion element, the first element of the Gateway that will launch to lunar orbit, is a spacecraft itself. It will fly by means of a technology called solar electric propulsion, but with three times more powerful than what has flown so far. This power and propulsion element will provide communications relays, including for human and robotic landers as well as visiting vehicles. NASA is targeting a launch of this element no later December 2022.
Artemis 1, 2, and 3
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke about the Gateway element and Artemis in general on May 23 at the Florida Institute of Technology. He outlined that the Artemis 1 mission will send the first human spacecraft to the Moon in the 21st century through a test flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system. Artemis 2 will be the first flight of human crew to the Moon aboard this SLS-Orion system. And Artemis 3 will send the first crew to the lunar surface (Ref. 4).
Figure 2: NASA's Strategic Plan for Lunar Exploration (image credit: NASA) 6)
On May 31 as part of the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative, NASA selected the first three commercial Moon landing service providers that will deliver science and technology payloads to the lunar surface. Representatives from each company explained their concepts in a televised event at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. These missions will acquire new science measurements and enable important technology demonstrations, whose data will inform the development of future landers and other exploration systems needed for astronauts to return to the Moon by 2024.
NASA Selects Experiments for Possible Lunar Flights
• July 30, 2019: As NASA prepares to land humans on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program, commercial companies are developing new technologies, working toward space ventures of their own, and looking to NASA for assistance. NASA has selected 13 U.S. companies for 19 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies and help maintain American leadership in space. 7)
NASA centers will partner with the companies, which range from small businesses with fewer than a dozen employees to large aerospace organizations, to provide expertise, facilities, hardware and software at no cost. The partnerships will advance the commercial space sector and help bring new capabilities to market that could benefit future NASA missions.
NASA centers will partner with the companies, which range from small businesses with fewer than a dozen employees to large aerospace organizations, to provide expertise, facilities, hardware and software at no cost. The partnerships will advance the commercial space sector and help bring new capabilities to market that could benefit future NASA missions.
The selections were made through NASA's Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO) released in October 2018. They will result in non-reimbursable Space Act Agreements between the companies and NASA. The selections cover the following technology focus areas, which are important to America's Moon to Mars exploration approach.
Figure 3: Illustration of a human landing system and crew on the lunar surface with Earth near the horizon (image credit: NASA)
Advanced Communications, Navigation and Avionics
- Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, will partner with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to advance lunar navigation technologies. The collaboration will help mature a navigation system between Earth and the Moon that could supplement NASA's Deep Space Network and support future exploration missions.
- Vulcan Wireless of Carlsbad, California, also will partner with Goddard to test a CubeSat radio transponder and its compatibility with NASA's Space Network.
- Aerogel Technologies of Boston will work with NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland to improve properties of flexible aerogels for rocket fairings and other aerospace applications. The material can result in 25% weight savings over soundproofing materials currently used in rocket fairings.
- Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, will work with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to test materials made from metal powders using solid-state processing to improve the design of spacecraft that operate in high-temperature environments.
- Spirit AeroSystem Inc. of Wichita, Kansas, will partner with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to improve the durability of low-cost reusable rockets manufactured using friction stir welding. This welding method, already being used for NASA's Space Launch System, results in a stronger, more defect-free seal compared to traditional methods of joining materials with welding torches.
Entry, Descent and Landing
- Anasphere of Bozeman, Montana, will partner with Marshall to test a compact hydrogen generator for inflating heat shields, which could help deliver larger payloads to Mars.
- Bally Ribbon Mills of Bally, Pennsylvania, will perform thermal testing in the Arc Jet Complex at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. The facility will be used to test a new seamless weave for a mechanically deployable carbon fabric heat shield.
- Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, will collaborate with NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and Goddard to mature a navigation and guidance system for safe and precise landing at a range of locations on the Moon.
- Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada, will work with NASA on two entry, decent and landing projects. The company will partner with Langley to capture infrared images of their Dream Chaser spacecraft as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere traveling faster than the speed of sound.
- For the second collaboration, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Langley will mature a method to recover the upper stage of a rocket using a deployable decelerator.
- SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, will work with NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to advance their technology to vertically land large rockets on the Moon. This includes advancing models to assess engine plume interaction with lunar regolith.
In-Space Manufacturing and Assembly
- Maxar Technologies of Palo Alto, California, will work with Langley to build a breadboard – a base for prototyping electronics – for a deployable, semi-rigid radio antenna. In-orbit assembly of large structures like antennae will enhance the performance of assets in space. Such capabilities could enable entirely new exploration missions that are currently size-constrained and reduce launch costs due to improved packaging.
- Blue Origin will partner with Glenn and Johnson to mature a fuel cell power system for the company's Blue Moon lander. The system could provide uninterrupted power during the lunar night, which lasts for about two weeks in most locations.
- Maxar will test lightweight solar cells for flexible solar panels using facilities at Glenn and Marshall that mimic the environment of space. The technology could be used by future spacecraft to provide more power with a lower mass system.
- Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, California, and Marshall will design and manufacture a lightweight rocket engine combustion chamber using innovative processes and materials. The goal of the project is to reduce manufacturing costs and make the chamber scalable for different missions.
- Blue Origin, Marshall and Langley will evaluate and mature high-temperature materials for liquid rocket engine nozzles that could be used on lunar landers.
- Colorado Power Electronics Inc. of Fort Collins, Colorado, will partner with Glenn to mature power processing unit technology that extends the operating range of Hall thrusters, which are primarily used on Earth-orbiting satellites and can also be used for deep space missions. By integrating their technology with NASA and commercial Hall thrusters, the company expects to provide a propulsion system that can significantly increase mission payload or extend mission durations.
- SpaceX will work with Glenn and Marshall to advance technology needed to transfer propellant in orbit, an important step in the development of the company's Starship space vehicle.
Other Exploration Technologies
- Lockheed Martin will partner with Kennedy to test technologies and operations for autonomous in-space plant growth systems. Integrating robotics with plant systems could help NASA harvest plants on future platforms in deep space.
Through ACO, NASA helps reduce the development cost of technologies and accelerate the infusion of emerging commercial capabilities into space missions. As the agency embarks on its next era of exploration, STMD is focused on advancing technologies and testing new capabilities for use at the Moon that also will be critical for crewed missions to Mars (Ref. 7).
• February 2019: NASA has selected 12 science and technology demonstration payloads to fly to the Moon as early as the end of this year, dependent upon the availability of commercial landers. These selections represent an early step toward the agency's long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and, later, Mars. 8)
"The Moon has unique scientific value and the potential to yield resources, such as water and oxygen," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "Its proximity to Earth makes it especially valuable as a proving ground for deeper space exploration."
NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be met by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon.
"This payload selection announcement is the exciting next step on our path to return to the surface of the Moon," said Steve Clarke, SMD's deputy associate administrator for Exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The selected payloads, along with those that will be awarded through the Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads call, will begin to build a healthy pipeline of scientific investigations and technology development payloads that we can fly to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial landing delivery services. Future calls for payloads are planned to be released each year for additional opportunities," he said.
The selected payloads include a variety of scientific instruments:
- The Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer will measure the lunar surface radiation environment.
- Three resource prospecting instruments have been selected to fly:
a) The Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System is an imaging spectrometer that will measure surface composition.
b) The Neutron Spectrometer System and Advanced Neutron Measurements at the Lunar Surface are neutron spectrometers that will measure hydrogen abundance.
- The Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometer for Lunar Surface Volatiles instrument is an ion-trap mass spectrometer that will measure volatile contents in the surface and lunar exosphere.
- A magnetometer will measure the surface magnetic field.
- The Low-frequency Radio Observations from the Near Side Lunar Surface instrument, a radio science instrument, will measure the photoelectron sheath density near the surface.
- Three instruments will acquire critical information during entry, descent and landing on the lunar surface, which will inform the design of future landers including the next human lunar lander.
- The Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies will image the interaction between the lander engine plume as it hits the lunar surface.
- The Surface and Exosphere Alterations by Landers payload will monitor how the landing affects the lunar exosphere.
- The Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing payload will make precise velocity and ranging measurements during the descent that will help develop precision landing capabilities for future landers.
There also are two technology demonstrations selected to fly.
- The Solar Cell Demonstration Platform for Enabling Long-Term Lunar Surface Power will demonstrate advanced solar arrays for longer mission duration.
- The Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator will demonstrate a navigational beacon to assist with geolocation for lunar orbiting spacecraft and landers.
NASA facilities across the nation are developing the payloads, including Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; Johnson Space Center in Houston; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Nine U.S. companies, selected through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) in November 2018, currently are developing landers to deliver NASA payloads to the Moon's surface. As CLPS providers, they are pre-authorized to compete on individual delivery orders.
NASA also released the Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payload (LSITP) call in October 2018 soliciting proposals for science instrument and technology investigations. The final LSITP proposals are due Feb. 27 and awards are expected to be made this spring.
"Once we have awarded the first CLPS mission task order later this spring, we will then select the specific payloads from the internal-NASA and LSITP calls to fly on that mission. Subsequent missions will fly other NASA instrument and technology development packages in addition to commercial payloads," said Clarke.
Commercial lunar payload delivery services for small payloads, and developing lunar landers for large payloads, to conduct more research on the Moon's surface is a vital step ahead of a human return.
As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA has announced plans to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface by 2028.
Artemis development status
• September 23, 2019: NASA is setting in motion the Orion spacecraft production line to support as many as 12 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024. 9)
- The agency has awarded the Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) to Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado. Spacecraft production for the Orion program, managed at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, will focus on reusability and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.
- "This is a great day for the men and women at Johnson Space Center. They are crucial to our national space program, and have an undeniable legacy and record of success in advancing America's leadership in the human exploration of space," said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. "I am pleased that Administrator Bridenstine has heeded my calls and is taking significant steps to ensure that Johnson continues to grow with the exciting future of manned exploration that lies ahead. More needs to be done, and I look forward to production ramping up in the weeks and months to come and to more opportunities with NASA."
- OPOC is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that includes a commitment to order a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 Orion spacecraft, with an ordering period through Sept. 30, 2030. Production and operations of the spacecraft for six to 12 missions will establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and demonstrate reusability of spacecraft components.
- "This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA's commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA's infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system."
- With this award, NASA is ordering three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III through V for $2.7 billion. The agency plans to order three additional Orion capsules in fiscal year 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII, at a total of $1.9 billion. Ordering the spacecraft in groups of three allows NASA to benefit from efficiencies that become available in the supply chain over time – efficiencies that optimize production and lower costs.
- Spacecraft reusability – itself a significant cost saver for the agency – will help NASA build the capabilities for sustainable exploration at the Moon and beyond. The long-term plan is to reuse the recovered crew modules at least once. The first phase of reusability will start with Artemis II. Interior components of the spacecraft, such as flight computers and other high value electronics, as well as crew seats and switch panels, will be re-flown on Artemis V. The Artemis III crew module will be re-flown on Artemis VI.
- The first six spacecraft will be acquired by cost-plus-incentive-fee ordering. Because the cost of a complex, high-tech system generally decreases over time as the design stabilizes and production processes mature, NASA will negotiate firm-fixed-price orders for future missions to take advantage of the anticipated spacecraft production cost decreases. Furthermore, the cost incentives on the cost-plus-incentive-fee orders are designed to motivate favorable cost performance during early OPOC production and drive substantially lower prices for any subsequent firm-fixed-price orders issued under this contract.
- "As the only vehicle capable of deep space exploration, the Orion spacecraft is critical to America's continued leadership," said Rep. Brian Babin of Texas. "Today's announcement signals that we are moving closer towards operation and production. While I look forward to learning more of the details, it's encouraging to see that this program is moving along as it should be. I am proud of the Orion program team and contractor partners at Johnson Space Center as they move towards getting the vehicle ‘flight ready.' Without the brilliant minds and extraordinary leadership of the hard-working men and women at Johnson, our country would not be the preeminent spacefaring nation in the world."
Figure 4: NASA completed building and outfitting the Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis lunar mission in June 2019. The spacecraft is being prepared for its uncrewed test flight atop NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Artemis-1 is the first test flight of the SLS and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system and will send Orion thousands of miles beyond the Moon and back to Earth (image credit: NASA, Radislav Sinyak)
- Work under this contract also will support production of NASA's lunar-orbiting Gateway and evolving mission requirements. Production of certain spacecraft components already designed and qualified for Orion will be provided for Gateway use, eliminating the need for the Gateway Program to develop and qualify similar components.
- "The men and women at Johnson Space Center represent the best and brightest scientific minds, and I'm confident with additional Orion spacecraft they will push the limits of exploration to the Moon and beyond," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "I commend the Trump Administration for recognizing the importance and tradition of Houston as the center of human spaceflight and exploring the next frontier."
- Houston has long been the hub of America's human space exploration program, from the early days of Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo to Artemis. With NASA's accelerated return to the Moon, Johnson Space Center now is managing more major human spaceflight programs than ever before. In addition to the Orion program, the Texas facility also manages NASA's Gateway and International Space Station programs, and is home to the Mission Control Center and America's astronaut corps – the next moonwalkers. Johnson also manages the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), the first two deliveries for which are targeted to launch to the Moon in July 2021.
- "No other spacecraft in the world can keep humans alive hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth for weeks at a time with the safety features, crew accommodations, technical innovations, and reliability that Orion provides," said Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager at Johnson. "With the design and development phase of Orion largely behind us, this new contract will enable us to increase efficiencies, reuse the spacecraft, and bring down the cost of reliably transporting people between earth and the Gateway."
- NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in five years as part of the agency's Artemis program. Orion, the Space Launch System rocket and Gateway are part of NASA's backbone for deep space exploration. Work is well underway on both the Artemis I and II Orion spacecraft. Engineers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida have completed and attached the crew and service modules for Artemis I and are preparing the spacecraft for environmental testing. Meanwhile, teams at Kennedy are integrating thousands of parts into the crew module for Artemis II in preparation for the first crewed Artemis mission.
- The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration. It's part of NASA's broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which we will quickly and sustainably explore the Moon and use what we learn there to enable humanity's next giant leap, sending astronauts to Mars.
• September 21, 2019: NASA and the Australian Space Agency (ASA) signed cooperation agreement at NASA Headquarters with the intent to join the United States' Moon to Mars exploration approach, including NASA's Artemis lunar program. The statement foresees potential Australian contributions in areas of mutual interest such as robotics, automation, and remote asset management – similar to that currently used by Australia in mining operations – and builds on a unique history of space cooperation between the U.S. and Australia that dates back to the Apollo era. 10)
- Although the Australian Space Agency is relatively new, established a little over a year ago, Australia has a long tradition of working closely with the U.S. in space activities. A formal agreement between NASA and the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) signed in 1960 allows for tracking and communication of NASA missions through the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, as well as the Data Relay Satellite facilities in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and Dongara, Western Australia. The CDSCC serves as an integral component of NASA's Deep Space Network.
• August 16, 2019: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was joined Friday by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee at the agency's MSFC (Marshall Space Flight Center) in Huntsville, Alabama, to announce the center's new role leading the agency's Human Landing System Program for its return to the Moon by 2024. 11)
- "Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America's space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon," Brooks said. "Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers. I'm pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America's return to the Moon and usher in the Artemis era. Thanks to Administrator Bridenstine for travelling here to share the great news in person."
- Bridenstine discussed the announcement in front of the 149-foot-tall SLS (Space Launch System) rocket liquid hydrogen tank structural test article currently being tested.
- "We greatly appreciate the support shown here today by our representatives in Congress for NASA's Artemis program and America's return to the Moon, where we will prepare for our greatest feat for humankind – putting astronauts on Mars," Bridenstine said. "We focus on a ‘One NASA' integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission."
- Informed by years of expertise in propulsion systems integration and technology development, engineers at Marshall will work with American companies to rapidly develop, integrate, and demonstrate a human lunar landing system that can launch to the Gateway, pick up astronauts and ferry them between the Gateway and the surface of the Moon.
- "Marshall Space Flight Center, and North Alabama, have played a key role in every American human mission to space since the days of Mercury 7. I am proud that Marshall has been selected to be the lead for the landers program," said Aderholt. "I am also very proud that Marshall has designed and built the rocket system, the Space Launch System, which will make missions to the Moon and Mars possible. We look forward to working with our industry partners and our NASA partners from around the country."
- NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, which manages major NASA human spaceflight programs including the Gateway, Orion, Commercial Crew and International Space Station, will oversee all aspects related to preparing the landers and astronauts to work together. Johnson also will manage all Artemis missions, beginning with Artemis 1, the first integrated test of NASA's deep space exploration systems.
- The trip to Marshall came the day after Bridenstine visited NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where he viewed progress on the SLS core stage that will power NASA's Artemis 1 lunar mission. With the start of testing in June on the liquid hydrogen tank article, and the recent arrival of the liquid oxygen tank at Marshall, which manages the SLS Program, NASA is more than halfway through SLS structural testing.
- NASA recently issued a draft solicitation and requested comments from American companies interested in providing an integrated human landing system – a precursor to the final solicitation targeted for release in the coming months. The agency's human lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed – landing on the Moon within five years, while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.
• July 11, 2019: The state-of-the-art heat shield, measuring roughly 16 feet (~ 5 m) in diameter, which will protect astronauts upon re-entry on the second mission of Artemis, arrived this week at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for assembly and integration with the Orion crew module. Artemis 2, the first crewed mission in the series of missions to the Moon and on to Mars, will confirm all of the spacecraft's systems operate as designed in the actual environment of deep space with astronauts aboard. 12)
Figure 5: Photo of the heat shield at KSC (image credit: NASA, Glenn Benson)
- The large piece of flight hardware arrived from Lockheed Martin's manufacturing facility near Denver aboard the NASA Super Guppy aircraft on July 9 and was transported to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout facility high bay where work will take place on July 10. Currently, the heat shield is a base titanium truss structure or skeleton. Over the next several months, technicians will apply Avcoat, an ablative material that will provide the thermal protection.
• July 1, 2019: NASA has selected 12 new science and technology payloads that will help us study the Moon and explore more of its surface as part of the agency's Artemis lunar program. These investigations and demonstrations will help the agency send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 as a way to prepare to send humans to Mars for the first time. 13)
- The selected investigations will go to the Moon on future flights through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project. The CLPS project allows rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services for payloads like these that advance capabilities for science, exploration, or commercial development of the Moon. Many of the new selections incorporate existing hardware, such as parts or models designed for missions that have already flown. Seven of the new selections are focused on answering questions in planetary science or heliophysics, while five will demonstrate new technologies.
Figure 6: Commercial landers will carry NASA-provided science and technology payloads to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024 (image credit: NASA)
- "The selected lunar payloads represent cutting-edge innovations, and will take advantage of early flights through our commercial services project," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Each demonstrates either a new science instrument or a technological innovation that supports scientific and human exploration objectives, and many have broader applications for Mars and beyond."
The 12 selected investigations are:
- MoonRanger is a small, fast-moving rover that has the capability to drive beyond communications range with a lander and then return to it. This will enable investigations within a 0.6-mile (1 kilometer) range from the lander. MoonRanger will aim to continually map the terrain it traverses, and transmit data for future system improvement.
- The principal investigator is Andrew Horchler of Astrobotic Technology, Inc., Pittsburgh.
- Heimdall is a flexible camera system for conducting lunar science on commercial vehicles. This innovation includes a single digital video recorder and four cameras: a wide-angle descent imager, a narrow-angle regolith imager, and two wide-angle panoramic imagers. This camera system is intended to model the properties of the Moon's regolith – the soil and other material that makes up the top later of the lunar surface – and characterize and map geologic features, as well characterize potential landing or trafficability hazards, among other goals.
- The principal investigator is R. Aileen Yingst of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.
Lunar Demonstration of a Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System
- Lunar Demonstration of a Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System aims to demonstrate a radiation-tolerant computing technology. Due to the Moon's lack of atmosphere and magnetic field, radiation from the Sun will be a challenge for electronics. This investigation also will characterize the radiation effects on the lunar surface.
- The principal investigator is Brock LaMeres of Montana State University, Bozeman.
Regolith Adherence Characterization (RAC) Payload
- RAC will determine how lunar regolith sticks to a range of materials exposed to the Moon's environment at different phases of flight. Components of this experiment are derived from a commercial payload facility called MISSE currently on the International Space Station.
- The principal investigator is Johnnie Engelhardt of Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance, LLC, Houston.
The Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder
- The Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder is designed to characterize the structure and composition of the Moon's mantle by studying electric and magnetic fields. The investigation will make use of a flight-spare magnetometer, a device that measures magnetic fields, originally made for the MAVEN spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Mars.
- The principal investigator is Robert Grimm of the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.
The Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment (LuSEE)
- LuSEE will integrate flight-spare and repurposed hardware from the NASA Parker Solar Probe FIELDS experiment, the STEREO/Waves instrument, and the MAVEN mission to make comprehensive measurements of electromagnetic phenomena on the surface of the Moon.
- The principal investigator is Brian Walsh of Boston University.
Next Generation Lunar Retroreflectors (NGLR)
- NGLR will serve as a target for lasers on Earth to precisely measure the Earth-Moon distance. They are designed to provide data that could be used to constrain various aspects of the lunar interior and address questions of fundamental physics.
- The principal investigator is Douglas Currie of University of Maryland, College Park.
The Lunar Compact InfraRed Imaging System (L-CIRiS)
- L-CLRiS is targeted to deploy a radiometer, a device that measures infrared wavelengths of light, to explore the Moon's surface composition, map its surface temperature distribution, and demonstrate the instrument's feasibility for future lunar resource utilization activities.
- The principal investigator is Paul Hayne University of the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The Lunar Instrumentation for Subsurface Thermal Exploration with Rapidity (LISTER)
- LISTER is an instrument designed to measure heat flow from the interior of the Moon. The probe will attempt to drill 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) into the lunar regolith to investigate the Moon's thermal properties at different depths.
- The principal investigator is Seiichi Nagihara of Texas Tech University, Lubbock.
- PlanetVac is a technology for acquiring and transferring lunar regolith from the surface to other instruments that would analyze the material, or put it in a container that another spacecraft could return to Earth.
- The principal investigator is Kris Zacny of Honeybee Robotics, Ltd., Pasadena, California.
SAMPLR: Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith
- SAMPLR is another sample acquisition technology that will make use of a robotic arm that is a flight spare from the Mars Exploration Rover mission, which included the long-lived rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
- The principal investigator is Sean Dougherty of Maxar Technologies, Westminster, Colorado.
NASA's lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed – landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024 – while the second will establish a sustained human presence on the Moon by 2028. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.
1) "New Space Policy Directive Calls for Human Expansion Across Solar System," NASA Release 17-097, 11 December 2017, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/new-space-policy-directive-
2) "NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems to Land Astronauts on Moon," NASA, 7 February 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-seeks-us-partners-to-
4) "Forward to the Moon: NASA's Strategic Plan for Lunar Exploration," NASA, 23 May 2019 (updated 6 June 2019), URL: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/
5) Elizabeth Landau, Thalia Patrinos, "Artemis Moon Program Advances – The Story So Far," NASA, 31 May 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/artemis-moon-program-advances
6) "Forward to the Moon: NASA's Strategic Plan for Lunar Exploration," NASA, 6 June 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/
7) Clare Skelly, Sean Potter, "NASA Announces US Industry Partnerships to Advance Moon, Mars Technology," NASA Release 19-063, 30 July 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-announces-us-industry
8) Dwayne Brown , Cheryl Warner, "NASA Selects Experiments for Possible Lunar Flights in 2019," NASA Release 19-010, 21 February 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-selects-experiments-
9) Kathryn Hambleton, Rachel Kraft, "NASA Commits to Long-term Artemis Missions with Orion Production Contract," NASA Press Release 19-074, 23 September 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-commits-to-long-term-artemis-missions-with-orion-production-contract
10) "Australian Government Commits to Join NASA in Lunar Exploration and Beyond," NASA Press Release 19-076, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/australian-government-commits-
11) "NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program's Human Lunar Lander Development," NASA Press Release 19-069, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-marshall-to-lead-
12) "Heat Shield for First Artemis Mission with Astronauts Arrives at Kennedy," NASA, 11 July 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/heat-shield-for-first-artemis
13) Grey Hautaluoma, Karen Northon, "NASA Selects 12 New Lunar Science, Technology Investigations," NASA Press Release 19-053, 1 July 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-selects-12-new-lunar-science-technology-investigations
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).
Provided data links to: