Artemis: December 2020 Archives

Final FY 2021 NASA Funding Provides Only 25% of HLS Request, Space Policy Online

"Congress finalized FY2021 appropriations today. Overall, NASA will receive $23.271 billion, almost $2 billion less than requested. Importantly for the Trump Administration's Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, it provides only $850 million instead of $3.4 billion for Human Landing Systems."

Artemis I Orion Progress Update, NASA

"During their troubleshooting, engineers evaluated the option to "use as is" with the high-degree of available redundancy or remove and replace the box. They determined that due to the limited accessibility to this particular box, the degree of intrusiveness to the overall spacecraft systems, and other factors, the risk of collateral damage outweighed the risk associated with the loss of one leg of redundancy in a highly redundant system."

SLS Team Completes Propellant Loading of Core Stage During Green Run Test, NASA

"Part of the test was to simulate the countdown with the tanks loaded, leading up to 33 seconds prior to the engines firing. However, the test ended a few minutes short of the planned countdown duration.The core stage and the B-2 test stand are in excellent condition, and it does not appear to be an issue with the hardware. The team is evaluating data to pinpoint the exact cause of the early shutdown. Then they will decide if they are ready to move forward with the final test, a hot fire when all four engines will be fired simultaneously."

Space Launch System Exploration Upper Stage Passes Critical Design Review

"To accomplish NASA's Artemis I lunar mission, the Block 1 variant of SLS will use a Boeing/United Launch Alliance Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage with one RL-10 engine to take an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a test flight to the moon. SLS Block 1 rockets will be used for two subsequent crewed flights, including the first human mission to lunar orbit since the Apollo program."

Keith's note: Where to begin? There is nowhere near enough money to keep the Artemis program focused on a 2024 landing - or any landing. NASA is flying Orion on Artemis I with broken hardware because the spacecraft was designed poorly so as to make routine replacements hard to do. The SLS Green Run should be running a bit more smoothly given how many years NASA has had to prepare for it and the last test before firing shut down early? As for the Boeing CDR release: What about human lunar landings on SLS Block I - isn't that what Artemis III is supposed to do? It is nice that the CDR is complete but there is no approved funding to actually build and fly the EUS. Yet Boeing writes these releases to downplay the Block 1 capabilities as if the EUS/Block 1B is a done deal. It is not.

Not enough funding, flying broken hardware on Orion, a flawed booster test, and faith-based planning for an upper stage that is not even funded. Such is the current status of NASA's new Moon program.

S.2800 NASA Authorization Act

Canada Heads To The Moon

A Canadian astronaut will be on the first NASA Artemis mission to the Moon , SpaceQ

"So I'm excited that a Canadian will be on Artemis II. But what I'm telling you about with all these other opportunities is that we are paving the way to Canadians doing even more things in space, eventually, hopefully one day Canadian on the Moon, and on Mars, those are our goals. And we believe in the trickle down effects from them."

NASA, Canadian Space Agency Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program, NASA

"Under this agreement, CSA will provide the Gateway's external robotics system, including a next-generation robotic arm, known as Canadarm3. CSA also will provide robotic interfaces for Gateway modules, which will enable payload installation including that of the first two scientific instruments aboard the Gateway. The agreement also marks NASA's commitment to provide two crew opportunities for Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions, one to the Gateway and one on Artemis II."

GAO: NASA Human Space Exploration - Significant Investments in Future Capabilities Require Strengthened Management Oversight

"What GAO Found

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) again delayed the planned launch date for Artemis I, the first uncrewed test flight involving three closely related human spaceflight programs--the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System (SLS), and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS). Together, these programs aim to continue human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. The most recent delay, to November 2021, resulted in part from manufacturing challenges and represents a 36-month slip since NASA established a schedule to measure performance in 2014. This new launch date does not account for the effects of COVID-19. According to NASA officials, COVID-19 delays and schedule risks will place pressure on NASA's ability to achieve this launch date.

Development cost estimates for key programs also increased. The cost of the SLS program increased by 42.5 percent and the EGS program by 32.3 percent since 2014, for a combined increase of over $3 billion, bringing the total to $11.5 billion. NASA does not plan to complete revised estimates for Orion, which are tied to the second, crewed test flight (Artemis II) before spring 2021.

NASA awarded billions of dollars in development and production contracts to support flights beyond Artemis I, but the flight schedule has changed frequently due to a lack of clear requirements and time frames for planned capability upgrades. Limited NASA oversight also places efforts to plan and execute future flights at risk of adverse outcomes, such as increased costs or delays. For example, NASA is committed to establishing cost and schedule performance baselines for these efforts, but it plans to do so too late in the acquisition process to be useful as an oversight tool. In addition, senior leaders do not receive consistent and comprehensive information at quarterly briefings on future efforts, such as a program to begin developing a more powerful upper stage for SLS. This is because current updates provided to NASA management focus primarily on the more short-term Artemis I and II flights. This approach places billions of dollars at risk of insufficient NASA oversight."

Keith's note: As you can see in the GAO report there is a series of dominoes that will fall and will push Artemis well past 2024: Green Run delays; shrinking times between Artemis I, Artemis II, and Artemis III, and less assurance that funding will be inplace to keep the whole party going. Also, there is a growing concern about flying Artemis II with full-up ECLSS and a crew for the first time and significant heartburn about flying a lunar lander with a crew for the first time on Artemis III. NASA now says that Artemis III will land without the Gateway - but that Gateway is needed in order for the Artemis program to be "sustainable". Yet Gateway will actually make the Artemis program harder to be "sustainable" given the delays and overruns experienced thus far. This cannot go on forever - can it? Nothing about this program has ever happend on time or within budget. If NASA can land humans on the Moon without Gateway in 2024 then it may actually be more "sustainable" to keep doing it that way.

Then there is this part of the report that reeks of naive faith-based program management. After a decade of delays and cost overruns, NASA is now hoping that "Boeing develops more expertise and certainty in the production of core stages and EUS." Why would Boeing want to change from a winning formula filled with cash and acceptance of delays?

"The contracts are predominantly cost-reimbursement type, under which the government bears the risk of increases in the costs. NASA is taking steps to control long-term program costs by planning to transition to fixed-price type contracting and other cost reduction strategies, but it will be years before NASA is in a position to do so. ... The SLS program plans to control long-term production costs of SLS core stages and EUS by structuring the SLS Stages Production and Evolution contract to allow a transition from costtype to firm-fixed-price deliverables. Program officials told us they expect the first series of core stages and EUS under this contract to be produced under cost-type orders, but they expect to eventually transition to the use of firm-fixed-price orders as Boeing develops more expertise and certainty in the production of core stages and EUS."

- Previous SLS/Orion posts
- Previous Artemis Posts

National Geographic Orders NASA Series 'Return To The Moon', Variety

"National Geographic has commissioned event series "Return To The Moon" (working title), which will chronicle NASA's historic Artemis program that will see a woman step on the lunar surface for the first time. ... The series will track the Artemis program right up to the moment NASA lands the first woman and the next man on the moon. Shooting across four years, from now until the lunar landing launch, it will follow the progress of the mission, through Artemis I's orbit of the moon, Artemis II's crewed flight around the Moon and ultimately Artemis III's lunar landings and return to Earth."

NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions

"Joseph Acaba, Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Victor Glover (in orbit), Warren Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Christina Koch, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kate Rubins (in orbit), Frank Rubio, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins, Stephanie Wilson"

TrumpSpace Series Finale

Vice President Mike Pence is set to name a cadre of Artemis astronauts, Ars Technica

"Vice President Mike Pence will announce a cadre of 18 astronauts from whom NASA is likely to choose the commanders, pilots, and mission specialists who will go to the Moon as part of the Artemis Program. Multiple sources said Pence would release a list of names on Wednesday at the National Space Council meeting in Florida as part of an update on NASA's Artemis Moon program. These will not be formal crew assignments for upcoming missions but rather a cadre from which astronauts will be selected for upcoming flights. Some of the astronauts will be in attendance."

Vice President Mike Pence to Convene Eighth Meeting of the National Space Council

"The Eighth Meeting of the National Space Council will take place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 9th, 2020 at 12:30 PM EST. The meeting will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. The meeting will be livestreamed here on NASA TV, and additional details will be forthcoming. Following NASA's COVID-19 response protocols, the use of face coverings will be required for invited guests, and hand sanitizer stations will be available. Attendance will be limited to promote social distancing, and temperature screenings will be required prior to entry."

Keith's note: The other day I asked about Artemis Astronauts, training, etc. (see NASA Releases Science Plan For First Artemis Human Landing Mission). I asked when crews would be selected, when training would begin, etc. In response I got a non-answer. OK, so the Vice President was going to make a big a announcement. I get the non-answer, don't steal his thunder thing. But, in their defense, everyone on the NASA side of the media briefing was either not in the loop as to what was going to be announced by Pence or ordered to not spill the beans. The smart thing would have been to hold this science plan briefing after the Vice President's announcement - not several days before it so as to not put the NASA folks in this situation. Doing so might have also served to bolster the notion that NASA has been thinking the whole 2024 deadline through seriously. But NASA PAO is not known for thinking things through like that.

After the "Make Space Great Again" series finale thing at KSC is over I will submit some questions to NASA PAO. It is unlikely that they will actually answer them - and if they do, the answers will be designed to occupy characters in an email - not to provide substance. Just Remember: NASA says (with a straight face) that it is going to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 - their deadline to do so is exactly 4 years from today.

Four years from today.


- NASA Releases Science Plan For First Artemis Human Landing Mission, earlier post
- DRAFT Agenda: Meeting of the National Space Council Wednesday, December 09, 2020, earlier post
- National Space Council Superspreader Series Finale (Update), earlier post
- Earlier TrumpSpace postings

NASA Invites Media to Discuss Science Priorities for Artemis III Moon Landing

"NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Monday, Dec. 7, to discuss the release of a report defining the agency's science priorities for the Artemis III mission, which will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024. The teleconference will stream live on NASA's website."

NASA Artemis III Science Definition Team report

"The Artemis III mission will be the first human mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st Century, and will build on the legacy of Apollo to usher in the modern era of human exploration and development in deep space. The lunar surface is an ideal location to answer fundamental planetary science questions. In the 50 years since humans last visited the Moon, new advances arising from robotic lunar missions, reanalysis of older data, modeling, and sample analysis have produced dramatic results and new questions about planetary volcanism, volatiles, impact processes, tectonics, and the lunar environment. Driven by new questions, we set out a robust science plan for the Artemis III crew return to the lunar surface."

Keith's note: According to this document NASA still does not know how it is going to land humans on the Moon and return them to Earth. At this point prior to Apollo landings there were posters on the wall of every school room in America laying out the Apollo mission profile. NASA has 4 calendar years to figure this out - they need to design, test, and fly the hardware - and it all needs to work. There is no room for error in the current schedule. Four years out and crews have yet to be selected. Crew training facilities do not yet exist since much of the mission hardware is still TBD. We are about to return to a world we left half a century ago and we seem to be in a hurry to do so.

"Artemis III will be the first human mission to the Moon in the 21st Century. Astronauts aboard Orion for Artemis III will rendezvous with a Human Landing System (HLS) vehicle in lunar orbit to make their descent to the lunar South Pole. NASA has awarded three companies, Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX, to begin refining their HLS designs. Artemis III astronauts will spend up to 6.5 days on the surface, living inside the HLS crew cabin that they will then use to launch back to lunar orbit to rendezvous with Orion. The Artemis III crew may rendezvous with the lander at the Gateway or may board the lander directly from Orion. While the SLS will launch crew aboard Orion, and potentially carry co- manifested payloads to lunar orbit, the increasingly capable commercial launch market will be the workhorse of lunar development. Commercial rockets are expected to carry CLPS landers and many other surface and orbital assets, including Gateway modules after Artemis III."

My question at the media telecon: "The science part of the report looks great. I am confused about the human part. At this point prior to the Apollo landings - as early as 1965 - Apollo program astronauts were in the field training for lunar geology and flying simulators based on an established mission architecture. At the same point prior to the first landing the Artemis program only has part of this in place. When will you pick crews and start training in simulators and in the field - and how will you do that given that the mission architecture is still several years away from being defined? Can you really pull this off so as to be ready to go no later than 4 years from TODAY? It seems a bit compressed."

Ken Bowersox replied "We expect to see a lot of progress in the next year when down select to our commercial partners. As for talking training I expect you will see that in the next year or so." When I asked when field training is going to start Bowersox said that some of this already happens in the field and in places like Desert RATS "flight specific training will start 1.5 to 3 years prior to the mission." Jacob Bleacher added that Apollo veterans have provided some input into Artemis training.


NASA Selects Companies to Collect Lunar Resources for Artemis Demonstrations

"Space resources will play a key role in NASA's Artemis program and future space exploration. The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of establishing human lunar exploration. Moreover, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) will play a vital role in a future human mission to Mars. Like many other operations, ISRU activities will be tested and developed on the Moon, building the required knowledge to implement new capabilities that will be necessary to overcome the challenges of a human mission to Mars."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Artemis category from December 2020.

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