NASA is moving forward with missions to the moon by building solid rocket boosters on its Space Launch System (SLS). SLS will be able to support six additional flights for up to nine Artemis missions.
The agency's goal is to launch Artemis' first three missions to the Moon by 2024. Later on, another goal is to send astronauts to Mars.
Initial steps involve building the Orion spacecraft which began testing in February this year against space's harsh environment it will soon encounter. To accompany the spacecraft, NASA has authorized Northrop Grumman, a space problem-solving company, to support building twin boosters for the first six SLS flights under the Boosters Production and Operations Contract. "
'This initial step ensures that NASA can build the boosters needed for future Space Launch System rockets that will be needed for the Artemis missions to explore the Moon,' said John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. 'The letter contract allows us to buy long-lead materials in time for manufacturing boosters for the fourth flight.'
The twin solid rocket boosters will be responsible for about 75% of the thrust of every SLS launch. Although they are designed for the solid rocket boosters for space shuttles, an additional segment will produce the power needed to launch a larger rocket.
The Artemis Missions
The Artemis mission, named after the Greek goddess of the Moon, is being designed so that astronauts can have a long-term stay on the moon. Four main phases are being developed for the next successful missions returning to the Moon.
'We're ready to process and stack the boosters for the Artemis I mission, and we are making great progress producing boosters for the Artemis II and III missions,' said Bruce Tiller, manager of the SLS Boosters. 'NASA is committed to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon, and this action enables NASA to have boosters ready when needed for future missions.'
10 rocket boost segments have already been shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Soon they will be assembled with the rest of the booster components needed for launch.
Artemis II involves another launch by SLS with a second mission involving low-Earth orbit. The crew will also take a trip to the Moon and a return trip to Earth.
By Artemis III, the crew is set to land on the Moon's south polar region where the astronauts will stay for about a week. It will also place the first woman on the Moon.
Missions to Mars
The two astronauts chosen to stay aboard the Orion orbital complex will conduct four spacewalks for some scientific research and collecting samples of ice water. An additional Artemis 4 up to Artemis 7 missions are proposed without definite details yet. These proposed missions may happen between 2025 to 2028 after the completion of Artemis 3.
Overall, the Artemis missions are humanity's next advancement in space exploration. With the success of all three phases, Artemis might evolve into sending astronauts on missions to Mars.