NASA had lost communication with Artemis I’s Orion capsule

We recently wrote of updates of the Artemis I mission which brought the Orion capsule in orbit around the moon and that he will bring it back to Earth by mid-December (the splashdown is scheduled for December 11 near the Californian coast). This is the first test of this kind of technology and since the Apollo missions a capsule certified for human transport reaches this distance. All in preparation (in 2024) for the second mission which will see on board a crew without for the moon landing (which will take place during the third mission, officially scheduled for 2025).

In general, the mission is proceeding regularly, returning high-impact videos and images (its purpose, however, is not directly that). Not missed by the unexpected. As reported by the Orion capsule unexpectedly lost communication with the control center. Thanks to the work of the insiders, the systems were back in operation in the shortest possible time and no subsequent problems were encountered. Here’s what we know.

Artemis I: Orion capsule lost communication for 47 minutes

In accordance to reported from the NASAat 7:09 on November 23, 2022 (Italian time) the Mission Control Center of the US space agency has lost communication of the data between the Orion capsule and the Earth in an unexpected way. It was therefore not an expected phenomenon and this could be a problem if there is a human crew on the spacecraft.

There connection been then recovered 47 minutes after. The moment of “blackouts” state when the Deep Space Network it was in the process of being reconfigured, which however had already been done several times since the launch of Artemis I (happened on November 16), without causing any problems. The solution was to reconfigure the DSN on the Land side which solved the problem.

The precise causes of what happened have not yet been disclosed, but the engineers are working to understand them and prevent it from happening again in the future. Despite this unforeseen event, the capsule remains in excellent condition and the mission is continuing as planned (new details could be given in future conferences). The data that was being transmitted at the time of the connection failure was also saved on board and sent later.

orion

In the meantime they have been released photos in high definition of the close passage of the Orion capsule during the seventh day of the Artemis I mission (on November 22). In particular the minimum distance detected from the surface of the natural satellite was equal to 130.5km. From there began the path for the retrograde orbit that will bring it back to the Earth in the next few days.

These aren’t the best photographs we have of the lunar surface but that’s because orbiters (like LRO) specialize in this task. The spacecraft, on the other hand, uses its own cameras to detect images that are used for navigation and must be tested in the field to validate its shooting ability in different light conditions. Day eight (November 23) saw entry into distant retrograde orbit where the capsule travels in the opposite direction to how the Moon orbits the Earth and is at a high distance to the satellite’s surface. At 4:49 today (November 24) Italian time, the Orion capsule was almost 65,000 km from the surface while the maximum distance will be reached around November 26.

Lastly, as regards the cameras mounted on the solar panels which captured the color images seen in recent days, it is manufactured products from Redwire Space (another Pixelink manufacturer). Although the complete specifications are not yet available, we know that these are products that send wireless data to the control system (but there are also wired ones in other parts of the capsule). As explained from David Melendresat the head of the camera system of Orion, these would be GoPro-based solutions but completely revised in terms of external structure, software and optics so as to be able to withstand the space environment and launch. If the live images seemed low quality mainly due to the distance from the moon which does not allow for high bandwidth and other data must also be sent and received in the meantime. In part, the high-definition videos arrived later, while many others were saved in the on-board systems and will be recovered when the capsule is landed.


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NASA had lost communication with Artemis I’s Orion capsule


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