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Exploration Mission-1

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Exploration Mission-1 or EM-1 (previously known as Space Launch System 1 or SLS-1) is the uncrewed first planned flight of the Space Launch System and the second flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The launch is planned for June 2020 from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center.[1] The Orion spacecraft will spend approximately 3 weeks in space, including 6 days in a retrograde orbit around the Moon.[5] It is planned to be followed by Exploration Mission 2 in 2023.

Exploration Mission-1
Sls block1 noeas afterburner engmarkings sm.jpg
Artist concept of SLS Block 1 configuration in flight
Mission typeLunar orbital test flight
Mission durationPlanned: 3 weeks
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeOrion MPCV
ManufacturerLockheed Martin / Airbus
Start of mission
Launch datePlanned: June 2020 (2020-06)[1]
RocketSLS Block 1[2]
Launch siteKennedy LC-39B[3]
End of mission
Landing sitePacific Ocean[4]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemSelenocentric
Period6 days
Moon orbiter
Orbital insertionPlanned: 2020
Exploration Mission-1 patch.png
Orion program
← EFT-1
EM-2 →


Mission overviewEdit

Animation of EM-1
Orion spacecraft with the ICPS in orbit
EM-1 will send an uncrewed Orion capsule 1.3 million miles over 25.5 days. It will deploy 13 CubeSats and re-enter at 24,000mph (mach 32).

The Block 1 version of SLS used on this mission will consist of two five-segment Solid Rocket Boosters, four RS-25D engines built for the Space Shuttle program and an Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage.[6] EM-1 is intended to demonstrate the integrated spacecraft systems prior to a crewed flight, and in addition, test a high speed reentry (11 km/s) on Orion's thermal protection system.[6]

On 16 January 2013, NASA announced that the European Space Agency will build the Orion Service Module based on its Automated Transfer Vehicle, so the flight could also be regarded as a test of ESA hardware as well as American, and of how the ESA components interact with the American Orion components.[7]

The Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) flight article was consciously constructed in a way that if all the missing components (seats, life support systems) were added, it would not meet the mass target. It was planned that subsequent capsules would be modified to be lighter, based on manufacturing experience.

In January 2015 NASA and Lockheed announced that some components in the EM-1 capsule would be up to 25 percent lighter compared to the previous one. This would be achieved by changes to the primary structure - the EM-1 article would be welded together from 3 panels for the cone, as opposed to 6 panels used for the EFT-1 article. The total number of welds was reduced from 19 to 7,[8] thus saving the additional mass of the weld material. Other savings would be due to revisiting its various components and wiring. For EM-1 the capsule will be outfitted with complete life support system and crew seats, but will be left uncrewed.[9] However, in February 2017 NASA announced that Robert M. Lightfoot Jr., the agency's Acting Administrator, had asked the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to study the feasibility of redesigning the mission to include a crew.[10]

Crewed versionEdit

The mission will be uncrewed, however NASA did initiate a study to investigate a crewed version of the mission. A crewed version of EM-1 would be composed of a crew of two astronauts, and will be much shorter than the uncrewed version due to safety reasons. The study investigated a crewed mission even with the possibility of further delays to the launch.[11] On 12 May 2017 NASA revealed that it will not be sending astronauts to space for Orion's EM-1 mission following a months-long feasibility study.[12]


Originally EM-1 was planned to follow a circumlunar trajectory without entering orbit around the Moon.[3][6]


Mission Elapsed Time Event Location
00:00:00 Launch Kennedy Space Center
00:02:00 Solid Rocket Boosters separation Altitude 45 km / 28 miles
00:03:40 Service Module Panels and Launch Abort System Jettisoned Altitude 91 km / 57 miles
00:08:14 Main Engine Cutoff and 1st Stage Separation Altitude 157 km / 98 miles
00:16:14 Solar Panels Deployed Altitude 484 km / 301 miles
00:54:05 Perigee Raise Maneuver (ICPS) Altitude 1,791 km / 1,113 miles
01:25:00 Trans-Lunar Injection (ICPS) Altitude 601 km / 373 miles
01:53:00 ICPS Stage Separation Altitude 3,849 km / 2,392 miles
Days 1-4 Outbound Coasting Phase Distance from Earth: 3,849 - 394,501 km / 2,391 - 245,131 miles
Periodic Trajectory Correction Maneuvers
4 days 7 h 18 m Lunar Gravity Assist Distance from Earth: 401,643 km / 249,569 miles
Distance to Moon: 100 km / 62 miles
Days 7-13 Distant Retrograde Orbit Distance from Earth: 348,931 - 437,321 km / 216,815 - 271,739 miles
20 days Return Powered Flyby Distance from Earth: 358,558 km / 222,798 miles
Days 21-25 Inbound Coasting Phase Distance from Earth: 364,804 - 67,527 km / 226,678 - 41,959 miles
Periodic Trajectory Correction Maneuvers
25 days 11 h 30 m Crew and Service Module Separation Altitude 5,140 km / 3,194 miles
25 days 11 h 34 m Reentry Altitude 100 km
Vehicle Speed: 11 km/second / 24,500 mph
Reentry Altitude 80 km
Vehicle Temperature: 5,000 °F / 2,760 °C
25 days 12 h Parachute Deployment Sequence Altitude 24,000 ft
25 days 12 h Crew Module Splashdown Location: Pacific Ocean

Orion payloadsEdit

NASA has partnered with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) in conjunction with StemRad and Lockheed Martin to perform the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE), which will measure tissue dose deposition and test the effectiveness of the AstroRad radiation vest in a radiation environment beyond low Earth orbit. While radiation shielding strategies of the past have relied on storm shelters in which astronauts can seek refuge as solar storms erupt, the AstroRad's ergonomic design provides a mobile protection system with the same shielding factor as storm shelters without hindering the astronauts’ ability to perform mission sensitive tasks.[13]

The crew compartment of the unmanned EM-1 Orion spacecraft will include two female anthropomorphic phantoms which will be exposed to the intense radiation environment along the lunar orbit, including solar storms and galactic cosmic rays. One phantom will be shielded with the AstroRad and the other will be left unprotected. The phantoms provide the opportunity to precisely measure radiation exposure not only at the surface of the body, but also at the exact location of sensitive organs and tissues inside the human body. Radiation exposure will be measured with implementation of both passive and active dosimeters intentionally distributed throughout the inside of the anthropomorphic phantoms at precise locations of sensitive tissues and high stem cell concentrations.[14][15] The results of MARE should enable Orion as a platform for other scientific experiments, provide accurate radiation risk projections of deep space exploration, and validate the protective properties of the AstroRad.

Secondary payloadsEdit

MPCV Stage Adapter for 13 CubeSat spring-loaded dispensers

Thirteen low-cost CubeSat missions were competitively selected as secondary payloads on the EM-1 test flight.[16] They will reside within the second stage on the launch vehicle from which they will be deployed. Two CubeSats have been selected through NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnership, three through the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, two through the Science Mission Directorate, and three were chosen from submissions by NASA's international partners. The CubeSat spacecraft selected are:[17][18]

The remaining three slots were selected through a competition pitting CubeSat teams from the United States against each other in a series of ground tournaments called 'NASA's Cube Quest Challenge',[27][28] and were announced by NASA Ames on 8 June 2017. The competition was to contribute to opening deep-space exploration to non-government spacecraft. These slots were awarded to:[29]

  • Cislunar Explorers will demonstrate the viability of water electrolysis propulsion and interplanetary optical navigation to orbit the Moon. It was designed by Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
  • Earth Escape Explorer (CU-E3) will demonstrate long-distance communications while in heliocentric orbit. It was designed by the University of Colorado in Boulder.
  • Team Miles will demonstrate long-distance communications while in heliocentric orbit and show low-thrust trajectory control techniques by employing a hybrid ion thruster. It was designed by Fluid and Reason, LLC, Tampa, Florida.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (20 November 2017). "NASA expects first Space Launch System flight to slip into 2020". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  2. ^ Bergin, Chris (23 February 2012). "Acronyms to Ascent – SLS managers create development milestone roadmap". Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b Hill, Bill (March 2012). "Exploration Systems Development Status" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  4. ^ Bergin, Chris (14 June 2012). "NASA teams evaluating ISS-built Exploration Platform roadmap". Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  5. ^ Huot, Daniel, ed. (27 November 2015). "The Ins and Outs of NASA's First Launch of SLS and Orion". NASA. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Singer, Jody (25 April 2012). "Status of NASA's Space Launch System" (PDF). NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Engineers resolve Orion will 'lose weight' in 2015". NASA. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  8. ^ Barrett, Josh (13 January 2015). "Orion program manager talks EFT-1 in Huntsville". Space Alabama. WAAY. Archived from the original on 18 January 2015.
  9. ^ "Engineers resolve Orion will 'lose weight' in 2015". WAFF. 13 January 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  10. ^ Dunbar, Brian, ed. (15 February 2017). "NASA to Study Adding Crew to First Flight of SLS and Orion". NASA. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  11. ^ Warner, Cheryl (24 February 2017). "NASA Kicks Off Study to Add Crew to First Flight of Orion, SLS". NASA. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  12. ^ Gebhardt, Chris (12 May 2017). "NASA will not put a crew on EM-1, cites cost – not safety – as main reason".
  13. ^ Pasztor, Andy (17 April 2018). "U.S., Israeli Space Agencies Join Forces to Protect Astronauts From Radiation". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  14. ^ Berger, Thomas (2017). Exploration Missions and Radiation (PDF). International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight. 11-12 October 2017. Las Cruces, New Mexico.
  15. ^ Berger, Thomas (2017). "ISPCS 2017 - Thomas Berger 'Exploration Missions and Radiation'". International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.
  16. ^ Healy, Angel (4 February 2016). "Boeing-Built Rocket to Carry Lockheed Martin's Skyfire CubeSat". GovConWire. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  17. ^ Hambleton, Kathryn; Newton, Kim; Ridinger, Shannon (2 February 2016). "NASA Space Launch System's First Flight to Send Small Sci-Tech Satellites into Space". NASA. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  18. ^ a b Zolfagharifard, Ellie (3 April 2015). "An asteroid hunter, lunar flashlight and DNA kit: Nasa reveals experiments its mega rocket will carry on its first test flight". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Lunar Flashlight". Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. NASA. 2015. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  20. ^ Wall, Mike (9 October 2014). "NASA Is Studying How to Mine the Moon for Water". Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  21. ^ a b McNutt, Leslie; et al. (2014). Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (PDF). AIAA Space 2014 Conference. 4-7 August 2014. San Diego, California. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. M14-3850.
  22. ^ Frazier, Sarah (2 February 2016). "Heliophysics CubeSat to Launch on NASAs SLS". NASA. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  23. ^ LunaH-Map - Homepage at the Arizona State University.
  24. ^ Harbaugh, Jennifer, ed. (2 February 2016). "LunaH-Map: University-Built CubeSat to Map Water-Ice on the Moon". NASA. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  25. ^ a b c Hambleton, Kathryn; Henry, Kim; McMahan, Tracy (26 May 2016). "International Partners Provide CubeSats for SLS Maiden Flight". NASA. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  26. ^ Hernando-Ayuso, Javier; et al. (2017). Trajectory Design for the JAXA Moon Nano-Lander OMOTENASHI. 31st Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites. 5–10 August 2017. Logan, Utah. SSC17-III-07.
  27. ^ Clark, Stephen (8 April 2015). "NASA adding to list of CubeSats flying on first SLS mission". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  28. ^ Steitz, David E. (24 November 2014). "NASA Opens Cube Quest Challenge for Largest-Ever Prize of $5 Million". NASA. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  29. ^ Anderson, Gina; Porter, Molly (8 June 2017). "Three DIY CubeSats Score Rides on NASA's First Flight of Orion, Space Launch System". NASA.

External linksEdit