(ORDO NEWS) — Earlier this week, the Artemis I lunar mission was pushed back again, and now we have to wait for a new launch window.
So what is a launch window, and why can’t a rocket take off at any moment?
The launch window is like waiting for a certain position of the stars. The rocket will be “thrown” from the surface of the Earth, and this throw must be precisely timed in order for the ship to go to the intended place at the right time.
For Artemis I, the mission to send the Orion capsule into orbit around the Moon, “right time” refers to when the Moon is as close to Earth as possible during its 28-day cycle.
Orion must fly past the Moon, not crash into it, so the position of the rocket launcher, the Earth, the Moon, and the lunar capsule must always be accurately calculated.
A similar story was with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. In this case, the mission controllers made sure that it did not crash into the Moon on the way to the L2 point.
The launch of the telescope was delayed several times to avoid bad weather; after all, it launched from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket in December 2021.
At NASA, when rescheduling a space rocket launch, they say that the mission has been “cleared.” This expression dates back to the beginning of the space age, when the data on the launch of a rocket was written by hand on a blackboard with chalk, and if it was transferred, then everything written was erased.
NASA uses five different words for space mission statuses. Cleaned up, canceled, decommissioned, retired, and completed all sound pretty much the same to the layman, but they mean different things to mission planners.
A mission that is “cancelled” will no longer be launched. For example, the launch of the International X-ray Laboratory was planned in 2021 by the joint efforts of NASA, ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, but was canceled due to budget cuts.
Planning and research were carried out, but in the end nothing was built. This is a mission cancellation that usually happens during the development stages.
If the mission is part of a program that is terminated, this is called “terminating”. Thus, when Russia withdraws from the ISS program, its participation in the project will be completed, despite the fact that the ISS mission itself will continue.
The last Saturn V rockets were “decommissioned” when the last three Apollo missions were cancelled.
Finally, we are used to seeing astronauts retire, but the same is happening with space programs. Mercury, Gemini, Apollo were retired. This means that there will be no further missions of this type.
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