A spacecraft is seen in space with the Moon in the distance
art001e000479 (Nov. 24, 2022) – On flight day 9, NASA’s Orion spacecraft captured imagery looking back at the Moon from a camera mounted on one of its solar arrays. The spacecraft is enroute to a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.

On the 12th day of the Artemis I mission, team members conducted another planned test of the star trackers aboard Orion as it continued along a distant retrograde orbit of the Moon, and began another reaction control thruster flight test. 

Engineers hope to characterize the alignment between the star trackers and the Orion inertial measurements units, both of which are part of the guidance, navigation and control system, by exposing different areas of the spacecraft to the Sun and activating the star trackers in different thermal states. Star trackers are navigation tools that measure the positions of stars to help the spacecraft determine its orientation. The inertial measurement units contain three devices, called gyros, used to measure spacecraft body rotation rates, and three accelerometers used to measure spacecraft accelerations.  

Together, the star tracker and inertial measurement unit data are used by Orion’s vehicle management computers to compute spacecraft position, velocity, and attitude. The measurements will help engineers understand how thermal states affect the accuracy of the navigation state, which ultimately affects the amount of propellant needed for spacecraft maneuvers. Read more about Orion’s guidance, navigation, and control system in the Artemis I reference guide. 

Engineers began a development flight test objective today that changed the minimum jet firing time for the reaction control thrusters over a period of 24 hours. This test objective is designed to exercise the reaction control system jets in a different configuration to model how thruster jets will be used for the crewed Artemis II mission. 

Teams also activated and interacted with the Callisto payload, a technology demonstration from Lockheed Martin in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco. Callisto is located in the Orion cabin and will test voice activated and video technology in the deep space environment. 

Monday, Nov. 28, Orion will reach its farthest distance from Earth when it is nearly 270,000 miles from our home planet. 

As of 4:30 p.m. CST, Orion was over 264,000  miles from Earth and 45,600  miles from the Moon, cruising at 1,750 miles per hour. 

To follow the mission real-time, you can track Orion during its mission around the Moon and back, and check the NASA TV schedule for updates on the next televised events. The latest imagery and videos can be found on the Johnson Space Center Flickr. 


Artemis I – Flight Day 12: Orion Star Trackers, Reaction Control Thrusters Tested