Artemis I preparations, Space Force’s new look, NASA leadership split & more top stories

This week, the Space Force gained a new look, NASA human spaceflight leadership has been divided, and preparations continue for Artemis I.

Preparation for Artemis I launch of SLS

NASA’s Space Launch System that will return us to the Moon has been fraught with delays. We are now just a few months away from the first launch of SLS. This first launch, on Artemis I, will be an uncrewed test flight of the vehicle. The rocket will carry 13 cubesats along for the ride. There has been a great deal of testing leading up to this point. From tests on the Solid Rocket Boosters and Core Stage to integration and modal testing, each aspect of the vehicle is being tested in preparation for them all to be working together during launch.

Image Credit: NASA

SLS will rollout to LC-39B at Kennedy Space Center around November 22, with NASA working to a launch date around Christmas (though this is only a working date, and the actual launch date will likely be next year). Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo, will see us return to the Moon. It will also mark the first woman and first person of color to land on the Moon. With NASA recently awarding a contract for Orion engines on Artemis Mission 6-14, this time we’re going there to stay. With additional programs like VIPER, searching for accessible resources on the Moon, we strengthen our chance of staying on the Moon long-term even if we can’t land on the Moon by 2024.

New Space Force uniforms and insignia

This week, the Space Force unveiled a look at its new uniforms and insignia. After splitting off from the Air Force in 2019, the new branch of the Armed forces primarily kept the look and traditions of its predecessor, Air Force Space Command. This week, the new branch began to really form its own look, with new rank insignia for its enlisted guardians and uniforms. The uniforms drew both approval and criticism for their resemblance to many uniforms in science fiction.

Inspiration4: Minor issues in orbit

The Inspiration4 mission certainly accomplished its goal of inspiring people around the world while helping raise money for St. Jude. Their journey around the Earth wasn’t just a simple joy-ride though. The Dragon capsule the crew member rode in was meant primarily for transporting people to and from the International Space Station, so it didn’t have a ton of amenities. They had cold food throughout the journey, and had limited connectivity. Roughly one-tenth of the time, they did not have communication with ground control. That stacked with issues with the complicated space toilet and alarms in the capsule to make for an interesting flight. Certainly a once in a lifetime experience, but as mission commander Jared Isaacman said, “if you had somebody that didn’t have that mental toughness and started to react poorly, that really could’ve brought down the whole mission.”

NASA splits leadership of human spaceflight

Bill Nelson’s NASA has split the human spaceflight program, led by Kathy Lueders, into two separate mission directorates, Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate and Space Operations Mission Directorate. Jim Free will lead the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, which includes the development of programs for Artemis and future missions to Mars. Kathy Lueders had her role cut back, now focusing on ISS and commercial low-Earth orbit operations, then sustaining operations on the Moon.

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