Orion splashes down after a successful Artemis I mission

11. 12. 2022 0 By Space Seeker

On Nov. 11, the Orion spacecraft reentered Earth’s atmosphere and landed under parachutes in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California at 12:40 PM EST (17:40 UTC) ending the 25.5-day Artemis I uncrewed test flight.

About five hours before splashdown the sixth and final return trajectory maneuver was performed. Then, Orion separated from the European Service Module which supported the capsule in propulsion, attitude control, life support, power, and other elements during the mission. This separation was mission-critical, as the very important heatshield was revealed and a complete takeover of attitude control also occurred at that point.

The thickness of the Orion heatshield varies between 2.5 and 7.5 cm and is produced in segments and then combined to form a singular unit. It protects the capsule from the heat of 2,760 degrees C while entering the atmosphere at nearly 40,000 kilometers per hour.

The parachutes, which slow down the spacecraft, deploy at a safe altitude of about 2,8 kilometers and a speed of around 209 kilometers per hour while the splashdown speed is only 32 kilometers per hour. After the splashdown, NASA planned to leave Orion in the water for two hours to perform a “soakback” test to see how the capsule handled the heat from reentry. Once aboard the recovery ship, it will be brought back to the Port of San Diego for final preparations and then will be shipped back to the Kennedy Space Center.

Photo Credit: NASA

The return to Earth of Artemis I also unfolded on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 17 moon landing of Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt on Dec. 11, 1972. Apollo 17 was the last time humans stepped foot on the lunar surface. Artemis II – SLS and Orion’s first launch with astronauts aboard will take flight no earlier than (NET) 2024.