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Launch dates for Artemis I

The launch window for the Artemis I Moon mission opens on 29 August. All being well, the SLS Block 1 rocket will blast off that day from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s launchpad 39B Cape Canaveral.

This first Artemis mission will put NASA’s Orion spacecraft and its European Service Module (ESM) to the test during a journey beyond the Moon and back. The spacecraft will enter lunar orbit, using the Moon’s gravity to gain speed and propel itself almost half a million km from Earth – farther than any human-rated spacecraft has ever travelled.

This journey will serve as a test of both the Orion spacecraft and its SLS rocket ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. In this instance, no crew will be on board Orion, and the spacecraft will be controlled by teams here on Earth. The second Artemis mission, however, will see four astronauts travel around the Moon on a flyby voyage around our natural satellite.

Mission duration depends on the launch date and time. It will last between 20 to 40 days, depending on how many orbits of the Moon mission designers decide to make. This flexibility in mission length is necessary to allow the mission to end as intended with a splashdown during daylight hours in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California, USA.

Two more dates are available if weather is not ideal on 29 August. The Artemis Moon mission can also be launched on 2 September and 5 September.

Orion is the only spacecraft capable of human spaceflight outside Earth orbit and high-speed reentry from the vicinity of the Moon. It includes ESA’s European Service Module, the powerhouse that fuels and propels Orion.

The European Service Module (ESM) provides for all astronauts’ basic needs, such as water, oxygen, nitrogen, temperature control, power and propulsion.

The creation of the ESM has been a truly pan-European effort led by Airbus as prime contractor. Some 26 European companies developed and built the module, from electrical equipment to engines, solar panels, fuel tanks and life-support elements.

ESA is also supplying habitation and refuelling modules for the international lunar Gateway station that will orbit the moon. The building of more ESMs as well as a series of independent European lunar landers is to be decided at ESA’s Ministerial Council later this year as part of ESA’s exploration strategy, Terrae Novae, that includes landing a European astronaut on the Moon by 2030.

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