NASA outlines how the SLS Orion & SpaceX Starship will land Artemis III astronauts on the Lunar South Pole

NASA outlines how the SLS Orion & SpaceX Starship will land Artemis III astronauts on the Lunar South Pole

Featured Image Source: Render by Tony Bela via Twitter

This past week, NASA outlined how the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion capsule will work alongside SpaceX’s Starship Human Landing System (HLS) to land Artemis III astronauts on the Lunar South Pole in 2025. The Artemis III mission will launch four astronauts, including the first woman and the first person of color to set foot on the lunar surface. Humanity has not returned to the Moon in over 50 years. 

NASA demonstrated SLS and Orion’s capabilities when it launched the powerful rocket for the first time on November 16, 2022. SLS launched Orion from Launch Pad-39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The uncrewed Orion spacecraft was deployed to orbit and used its onboard engines to propel itself towards lunar orbit. It took Orion 5 days to reach the Moon, flying within 81-miles of its surface to conduct a maneuver that harnessed the Moon’s gravity to orbit around it. Orion returned to Earth after 26 days on December 11, 2022. “Orion is the only spacecraft capable of returning crews to Earth at lunar reentry velocities. On the successful Artemis I mission, Orion’s uniquely designed heat shield was recently tested under these extreme reentry conditions,” the agency said.

The Orion spacecraft is designed to dock to SpaceX’s Starship HLS so that the crew can transfer to land on the lunar surface. On January 13, NASA shared an updated outline of the Artemis III flight plan, pictured below. Orion will perform a series of two engine burns to fly in a lunar Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO). The orbit was selected so that the crew can maintain constant communication with Mission Control on Earth, the orbit will also maximize fuel efficiency. SLS/Orion will perform the first crewed demonstration mission until 2024.

“NASA has selected SpaceX to provide the human landing system that will transport Artemis III astronauts from Orion in lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and back again,” said NASA representatives. “SpaceX plans to use a unique concept of operations to increase the overall efficiency of their lander. After a series of tests, SpaceX will fly at least one uncrewed demo mission that lands Starship on the lunar surface. When Starship has met all of NASA’s requirements and high standards for crew safety, it will be ready for its first Artemis mission,” they stated in a press release. 

Source: NASA

“Before the crew launch, SpaceX will launch a storage depot to Earth orbit. A series of reusable tankers will carry propellant to the storage depot to fuel the human landing system. The uncrewed Starship human landing system will then launch to Earth orbit and rendezvous with the storage depot to fill its tanks before executing a translunar injection engine burn and traveling approximately six days to NRHO where it will await the Artemis III crew,” explained the agency. “When both spacecraft have arrived in NRHO, Orion will dock with the Starship human landing system in preparation for the first lunar surface expedition of the 21st century.”  

Then a pair of astronauts will board Starship while the other two remain inside Orion to monitor the Moon landing operations from lunar orbit. “Orion will undock and back away from Starship to remain in NRHO for roughly one orbit around the Moon, lasting about 6.5 days,” shared NASA. “This will match the length of the surface expedition, so as Orion completes its orbit, the two person surface crew will finish their work on the surface in time to launch back up to meet the spacecraft.” The crew will return to Earth aboard Orion with a parachute-assisted splashdown in the ocean, while Starship remains in lunar orbit. 

During the 6.5 day lunar exploration mission, the astronauts will be tasked to conduct scientific work. They will moonwalk to collect samples and take photos of the Lunar South Pole region. NASA said the astronauts will sleep inside Starship where they will have all necessary survival equipment. The Artemis III mission will pave the way for future lunar exploration missions. NASA and SpaceX aim to usher a future where humans can have access to visit a Moon base frequently.

》 Author's note: Thanks for reading If you have any story suggestions or feedback, feel free to Direct Message me on Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve Or write your thoughts in the comment section below. Read my most recent stories here: Recent News Stories 《  

Featured Image Source: Render by Tony Bela via Twitter

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

Follow me on X

Reading next

Twitter Is Auctioning Off Surplus Corporate Office Stuff & Unique Items
Anuvu partners with SpaceX to become a Starlink reseller for maritime customers

Tesla Accessories