Flight Advances NASA Artemis MissionFlight Advances NASA Artemis Mission

NASA and SpaceX are working together to create the Starship human landing system (HLS) as part of NASA’s Artemis campaign, which aims to return humans to the Moon for the benefit of all. Throughout the Artemis III and Artemis IV missions, this mechanism will make it easier for astronauts to land close to the Moon’s South Pole. The third integrated flight test of SpaceX’s Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage was carried out on March 14, which was a big step toward providing a Starship HLS for NASA’s Artemis missions.
With Starship positioned atop, the Super Heavy booster, propelled by 33 Raptor engines running on super-cooled liquid oxygen and methane, took off from SpaceX’s Starbase orbital launch pad at 8:25 a.m. CDT. A little over three minutes into the flight, Starship used its six Raptor engines to hot-stage and separate from the Super Heavy rocket as intended. This was the integrated Super Heavy Starship system’s third flying trial.
The Marshall Space Flight Center’s Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA’s HLS Program Manager, stressed the significance of these flight tests in furthering Starship’s development for upcoming missions. Every test strives for ever-higher goals in order to collect vital information for Starship HLS’s ongoing improvement.
A number of noteworthy firsts were accomplished during this flight test, including entering the desired orbit and finishing the ascent burn in its entirety. Notably, it also carried out a demonstration of propellant transfer, an essential skill for Artemis missions to come. As part of NASA’s efforts to address issues related to deploying cryogenic fluids in space, the NASA-SpaceX team is presently examining the flight data that was obtained from this demonstration.
The behavior of the super-cooled propellant in the tanks during engine shutdown and its effect on the stability of the Starship in orbit will be thoroughly studied by engineers through a close examination of the flight data. This research will help ensure that the Raptor engines obtain the required conditions for restart in orbit and optimize the efficiency of propellant transfer.
For upcoming exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, Jeremy Kenny, project manager of NASA’s Cryogenic Fluid Management Portfolio at Marshall, emphasized the importance of developing cryogenic propellant storage and transfer technology.
In addition to preparing for future human missions to Mars, NASA’s Artemis program intends to land the first woman, the first person of color, and the first foreign partner astronaut on the moon. In order to progress in deep space travel, commercial human landing systems—such as Starship HLS—along with the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, sophisticated spacesuits, rovers, exploration ground systems, and the Gateway space station are essential.


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