NASA’s Artemis II mission will see the first flight test of the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida with crew aboard. The four astronauts will verify all the systems while in the actual deep space environment over a ten-day mission. This will be the first time humans fly aboard the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. The mission’s purpose is to prepare for the eventual manned mission of Artemis III, which will see the first woman and next man to walk on the Moon. The Artemis II mission will launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in a Block 1 configuration of the SLS rocket on a hybrid free return trajectory. It will allow Orion to perform various maneuvers to reach a lunar free return trajectory in which Earth’s gravity will naturally pull Orion back after flying by the Moon. After being launched and orbiting Earth twice, the spacecraft will then head towards the Moon for a flyby. The Artemis II mission will also test Orion’s critical life support systems necessary for longer duration missions ahead. This step will enable the crew to practice operations that are essential for the success of the future Artemis III mission.
See the Artemis II mission map courtesy of NASA
Artemis II is critical to NASA’s return to the Moon and its eventual long-term exploration, as well as missions to other planets, such as Mars. The mission is designed to confirm that the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed in deep space with people aboard. The Artemis II mission will build on the uncrewed Artemis I flight test, demonstrating a broad range of SLS and Orion capabilities that are needed for deep space missions.
After the mission has launched a crew of four astronauts from Kennedy Space Center, Orion will orbit Earth twice, to ensure that its systems are working as expected while still near to home. It will then fly in an ellipse between approximately 115 and 46,000 miles above Earth, taking approximately 23.5 hours. After the burn to enter high-Earth orbit, Orion will separate from the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and will be piloted manually by the crew as a target for a proximity operations demonstration.
Once the demonstration is complete, the crew will verify spacecraft system performance while in space. They will remove the Orion Crew Survival System suit and spend the remainder of the orbit in plain clothes. While still close to Earth, the crew will also assess the performance of the life support systems necessary for generating breathable air and removing the carbon dioxide and water vapor produced when breathing, talking, or exercising. They will confirm the full range of life support system capabilities and ensure readiness for the lunar flyby portion of the mission.
Artemis II is an essential step in preparing for the Artemis III mission that will eventually put humans back on the Moon for long-term exploration and future missions to other worlds, including Mars. With the Artemis II mission, NASA is one step closer to returning humans to the Moon and expanding the frontier of space exploration.