NASA unexpectedly lost contact with its Orion capsule en route to the moon early Wednesday (November 23) for reasons that remain unknown.
The uncrewed Orion capsule has performed well since its Nov. 16 launch as part of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission.
But on November 23, a problem arose: NASA lost contact with Orion at 8:09 a.m. (Romanian time) while it was reconfiguring a link between the capsule and the Deep Space Network, the array of radio antennas that the US space agency uses to communicate with his distant spaceship.
What happened while NASA lost contact with Orion?
“The reconfiguration has been successfully performed several times over the past few days, and the team is investigating the cause of the signal loss,” NASA officials wrote in a brief information from Wednesday.
“The team solved the problem with a ground reconfiguration. Engineers are reviewing data from the event to help determine the causes that led to this problem, and the command and data processing officer will transfer the data recorded aboard Orion during the outage to include in that assessment,” they added. .
The communications outage lasted 47 minutes, and Orion returned to contact without damage; the spacecraft is “healthy” and has suffered no apparent ill effects, NASA officials said.
What will Orion do next?
Orion is preparing for a crucial maneuver: It is scheduled to perform an engine burn on Friday (November 25) that will put the capsule into orbit around the moon. If all goes well, Orion will remain in that orbit for about a week, then return to Earth on December 1, according to Space.com.
The Orion capsule will return to Earth assisted by a parachute and fall into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the US state of California on December 11.
NASA’s Artemis mission
Artemis 1 is the test mission for Orion and NASA’s giant SLS rocket, the most powerful rocket ever successfully flown. The two are scheduled to fly with astronauts for the first time in 2024 on the Artemis 2 mission, which will send a crewed Orion capsule around the Moon.
Artemis 3 will follow about a year later, taking astronauts near the moon’s south pole, where NASA aims to build a manned outpost, one of the main goals of its Artemis program.