Orion prepares to return to Earth ahead of splashdown tomorrow

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is on its way home from its orbit of the moon and is as a result of splash down within the Pacific Ocean tomorrow, Sunday, December 11. Teams on the bottom are performing last-minute checks of all of the required systems for tomorrow’s splash down, and the Orion craft has performed a series of ultimate tests of its thrusters.

To regulate its re-entry into the atmosphere, Orion will use a set of engines called its crew module response control thruster system. These small thrusters control the direction and stabilization of the module which can be holding the human astronauts if this were a crewed flight. As this mission is uncrewed, its aim is to check whether astronauts can safely be transported. To check out these thrusters, teams fired every one in a fast burst of 75 milliseconds in what is known as a hot fire test. By firing thrusters in pairs on opposite sides of the spacecraft, they could possibly be tested with minimal disruption to Orion’s direction.

The engines on Orion’s service module are prominently featured on this image from flight day 22 of the Artemis I mission. The most important is the orbital maneuvering system engine, surrounded by eight smaller auxiliary thrusters. NASA

Orion is currently traveling at 2,100 mph, and it’ll must slow itself to lower than 20 mph when it enters the water. It can also must go through the Van Allen belts, that are areas around Earth where radiation is trapped as a result of the planet’s magnetosphere. These belts are what keep us on the surface protected from dangerous space radiation, but they will be hazardous to spacecraft.

Orion has been designed to face up to space radiation and has a “storm shelter” inside it where a crew could possibly be kept protected from high levels of radiation brought on by a solar particle event. On this uncrewed test, Orion has radiation experiments and sensors on board to ascertain how much radiation a crew could expect to be exposed to throughout a journey to the moon and back. Other systems to check what the landing can be like for a crew include a mannequin placed in one in every of the seats, with sensors to detect vibrations and the forces of gravity.

NASA might be providing a livestream of the Orion splashdown, so head over to our guide on methods to watch the splashdown at home.

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