New explorers are going to the Moon to make discoveries that will pave the way for future missions to Mars and beyond. NASA’s Artemis missions, named for Apollo’s twin sister, will demonstrate America’s commitment and capability to extend human existence to deep space, for the benefit of life on Earth.
Artemis I is the first of many deep-space missions, introducing a new era of scientific discovery, economic benefits and inspiration as we return humans to the Moon, this time to stay. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will launch the crews and massive cargo required to build a sustainable human presence in deep space. During the Artemis I mission, the SLS rocket will push an uncrewed Orion spacecraft out of Earth’s atmosphere to travel around the Moon and back. Later Artemis missions will include the sight of the first woman and the first person of color stepping onto the lunar surface.
Our team designs, develops, tests and produces the SLS rocket’s core stage, upper stages and avionics.
The core stage delivers propellants to four RS-25 engines through launch and ascent.
Upper stages — an Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage for initial versions of SLS and a more powerful Exploration Upper Stage later on — boost an Orion spacecraft or cargo element out of Earth’s orbit.
The rocket will blast off from Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
At launch of Artemis I, the rocket’s core stage will burn more than 700,000 gallons (2.6 million liters) of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. It will produce 8.8 million pounds (4 million kilograms) of thrust and reach an altitude of 530,000 feet (161,500 meters) — more power and height than the Apollo Saturn V rockets.
After jettisoning the solid rocket boosters and launch abort system, the core stage engines will shut down and the stage will separate from the spacecraft.
As the spacecraft orbits Earth, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) will give Orion the push needed to travel toward the Moon.
The ICPS and the rest of SLS combined have a payload lift capability of 59,500 pounds (27 metric tons) — about four African elephants.
In the future, SLS with the Exploration Upper Stage — with a lift capability of 95,600 pounds (42 metric tons) — will boost Orion astronauts, a payload full of cargo or both to deep space.
Once at lunar orbit, about two hours after launch, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage will separate and deploy small satellites, known as CubeSats, to perform experiments and technology demonstrations.
These missions will provide new data to expand our understanding of our solar system, the human body and how humanity can survive long-duration trips to deep space. For example, ice on the Moon could be used for drinking water and even be transformed into spacecraft fuel.
Propelled by its service module, Orion will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 kilometers) from Earth, far beyond the Moon.
Orion’s unique design will allow it to navigate, communicate and operate in a deep space environment and stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has ever achieved without docking to a space station. It will also return home faster and at a higher temperature than ever before.
Splashdown will take place in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California.