NASA Orion spacecraft blasts off atop 1st Space Launch System rocket in 2017 - attached to European provided service module – on an enhanced m mission to Deep Space where an asteroid could be relocated as early as 2021. NASA Orion spacecraft blasts off atop 1st Space Launch System rocket in 2017 – attached to European provided service module – on an ambitious mission to explore Deep Space some 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, where an asteroid could be relocated as early as 2021. The ambitious first flight, called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), would be targeted to send an unpiloted Orion spacecraft to a point more than 40,000 miles (70,000 kilometers) beyond the Moon as a forerunner supporting NASA’s new Asteroid Redirect Initiative – recently approved by the Obama Administration. The EM-1 flight will now serve as an elaborate harbinger to NASA’s likewise enhanced EM-2 mission, which would dispatch a crew of astronauts for up close investigation of a small Near Earth Asteroid relocated to the Moon’s vicinity. Until recently NASA’s plan had been to launch the first crewed Orion atop the 2nd SLS rocket in 2021 to a high orbit around the moon on the EM-2 mission, said NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver in an prior interview with me at the Kennedy Space Center.
Concept of NASA spacecraft with Asteroid capture mechanism deployed to redirect a small space rock to a stable lunar orbit for later study by astronauts aboard Orion crew capsule.
The enhanced EM-1 flight would involve launching an unmanned Orion, fully integrated with the Block 1 SLS to a Deep Retrograde Orbit (DRO) near the moon, a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system where an asteroid could be moved to as early as 2021.
The proposed much more technologically difficult EM-1 mission would allow for an exceptionally more vigorous work out and evaluation of the design of all flight systems for both Orion and SLS before risking a flight with humans aboard.
A slew of additional thruster firings would exercise the engines to change orbital parameters outbound, around the moon and inbound for reentry. The current Deep Retrograde Orbit (DRO) plan includes several thruster firings from the Orion service module, including a powered lunar flyby, an insertion at DRO, an extraction maneuver from the DRO and a powered flyby on return to Earth.
Orion would be outfitted with sensors to collect a wide variety of measurements to evaluate its operation in the harsh space environment. The EM-1 flight has many years of planning and development ahead and further revisions prior to the 2017 liftoff are likely.
Orion is NASA’s next generation manned space vehicle following the retirement of NASA’s trio of Space Shuttles in 2011. The SLS launcher will be the most powerful and capable rocket ever built by humans – exceeding the liftoff thrust of the Apollo era Moon landing booster, the mighty Saturn V. Both Orion and SLS are under active and accelerating development by NASA and its industrial partners. The 1st Orion capsule is slated to blast off on the unpiloted EFT-1 test flight in September 2014 atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket on a two orbit test flight to an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth’s surface.
Technicians work on mockups of the Orion crew capsule, Service Module and 6 ton Launch Abort System (LAS) to simulate critical assembly techniques inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida for the EFT-1 mission due to liftoff in September 2014.


Orion EFT-1 is already under construction at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) by prime contractor Lockheed Martin – read my earlier story here. Integration and stacking tests with Orion’s emergency Launch Abort System are also in progress at KSC – details here. NASA says the SLS is also in the midst of a extensive review process called the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) to ensure that all launch vehicle components and systems will achieve the specified performance targets and be completed in time to meet the 2017 launch date. NASA Headquarters will make a final decision on upgrading the EM-1 mission after extensive technical reviews this summer. I assumed informed readers here knew the basic difference between engineering, technology development and pure science (Hubble, WMAP, Curiosity, etc.) I was wrong. As for the engineering of new rockets and spacecraft the private sector can do it faster, cheaper, and better than gov’t can.
All this ‘high frontier’ action comes amidst the utterly chaotic US government partial shutdown, that threatened the launch of the MAVEN Mars orbiter, has halted activity on many other NASA projects and stopped public announcements of the safe arrival of NASA’s LADEE lunar orbiter on Oct.
Bolton confirmed that the shutdown fortunately hasn’t altered or killed Juno’s flyby objectives.
And some more good news is that Slooh will track the Juno Earth Flyby “LIVE” – for those hoping to follow along. NASA’s Juno Jupiter-bound space probe will fly by Earth for essential speed boost on Oct 9, 2013. 97% of NASA’s employees are furloughed – including public affairs – due to the legal requirements of the shutdown! A full up science investigation of our Home Planet by Juno is planned, that will also serve as a key test of the spacecraft and its bevy of state of the art instruments.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft blasted off atop an Atlas V rocket two years ago from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on Aug. During a one year science mission – entailing 33 orbits lasting 11 days each – the probe will plunge to within about 3000 miles of the turbulent cloud tops and collect unprecedented new data that will unveil the hidden inner secrets of Jupiter’s genesis and evolution.
Viewers near Cape Town, South Africa will have the best opportunity to view the spacecraft traveling across the sky. Juno itself will most likely not be visible to the unaided eye, but binoculars or a small telescope with a wide field should provide an opportunity to view, according to a Slooh statement.
Amidst the government shutdown, Juno prime contractor Lockheed Martin is working diligently to ensure the mission success.


What’s not at all clear is whether Juno will detect any signs of ‘intelligent life’ in Washington D.C.! This instrumentation suite gives us the ability to measure many attributes of system functionality and performance, including thermal, stress, displacement, acceleration, pressure and radiation,” Dean told me. Like the ill fated ARES and X-33 boondoggles that wasted billions with zero test flights, the SLS is another congressional district jobs program. It’s an engineering accomplishment, but it yields relatively little knowledge about anything other than the performance of the spacecraft itself (a craft intended to carry humans). Bolton is Juno’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), San Antonio, Texas.
9, 2013, NASA’s Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft is making a quick pass to get a gravity boost from the mother planet. 5, 2011 to begin a 2.8 billion kilometer science trek to discover the genesis of Jupiter hidden deep inside the planet’s interior. When it arrives at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, Juno will become the first polar orbiting spacecraft at the gas giant. Questions can be asked during the broadcast via Twitter by using the hashtag #nasajuno -says Slooh. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. By now it’s well established that, dollar for dollar, robots yield much more knowledge about the solar system than manned spacecraft do. Even the International Space Station yields relatively little data about anything other than the human response to space flight — along with some observational earth studies that could be done just as well (and far more cheaply) with robots. Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute® is the Juno mission principal investigator, leading an international science team seeking to answer some fundamental questions about the gas giant and, in turn, about the processes that led to formation of our solar system.



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