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NASA Conducts First Artemis 2 Launch Simulation

NASA's Kennedy Space Center Launch Control completes the first launch simulation for Artemis 2's crewed mission around The Moon.

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Dakota W.

Dakota W.

Mon Jul 24 2023Written by Dakota W.

NASA's Artemis launch team has recently conducted the inaugural simulation for Artemis II, which marks the first crewed mission under the Artemis program. The simulations take place at the Launch Control Center in Florida's Kennedy Space Center and are vital in ensuring that all personnel involved in the mission are fully prepared and focused, just as they were for Artemis I.

Over the years, NASA has regularly conducted simulations to practice various launch-day scenarios and keep the launch control system updated. These simulations, known as "sims," not only aid the launch team members but also inform the timing of operations and milestones within the countdown, allowing for necessary adjustments.

To ensure the launch team is well-prepared, a dedicated training team within the Exploration Ground Systems Program (EGS) designs challenging scenarios that test their abilities to handle unexpected situations. These simulations cover two critical aspects of the Artemis launch countdown: propellant loading and terminal countdown. Propellant loading involves fueling the SLS rocket with cryogenic liquids, while the terminal countdown focuses on the last 10 minutes before liftoff when all systems come online.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA Artemis launch director, leads the Artemis II launch simulation at Kennedy. Artemis II will be the first mission with astronauts that will test and check out all of the Orion spacecraft systems needed for future crewed missions.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director, emphasizes the importance of simulations in preparing the team for a variety of possible scenarios, ranging from straightforward to complex, including those that may lead to a scrub decision.

During the most recent simulation, the focus was on cryogenic loading of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the main propellants for the SLS rocket. The team had to troubleshoot common issues such as hydrogen leaks, erratic temperature sensors, and potential fires.

The terminal count simulations are particularly intense as they involve critical milestones that must occur in a specific order before liftoff. The countdown typically starts at T minus 1 hour and 40 minutes. However, to prioritize safety, most training simulations do not proceed all the way to launch, especially to practice critical safing steps in case of a launch cut-off in the last few seconds.

NASA Test Director Sharif Abdel-Magid, seated, and Carlos Monge, branch chief for Test, Launch, and Recovery Operations, rehearse the steps to launch NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis II crewed mission.

The Artemis II crew did not participate in this simulation, but integrated simulations across multiple facilities and teams will be conducted closer to the actual launch. These simulations will prepare teams for various scenarios, including abort events, and involve the Artemis II crew in different training exercises, always prioritizing the safety of the astronauts on the mission.

Overall, these simulations not only prepare the team for Artemis II but also lay the groundwork for future Artemis missions, which aim to establish a sustained presence on the Moon for scientific exploration and beyond.