Artemis I: NASA opts to “use as is” after an Orion backup Power and Data Unit comms card failed

Earlier this month it was reported that NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon had a dead backup channel on a Power and Data Unit communication card. The Verge shared an internal document that showed multiple approaches to address the failed redundant channel, and the option to fully restore it was estimated to take up to a year. NASA has now issued a decision on how it will move forward with the Orion spacecraft ahead of its first uncrewed mission around the Moon.

In a blog post published on NASA’s Artemis blog, the space agency explains its decision to “use as is” without modification:

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.  Therefore, NASA has made the decision to proceed with vehicle processing. […]

NASA will proceed with spacecraft processing, and engineers are currently completing final closeout activities and will transfer the spacecraft in mid-January from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility to the Multi-Payload Processing Facility for fueling and preparation for integration with the Space Launch System rocket. The new timeline does not impact the launch schedule, and NASA remains on track for a launch in November 2021.

NASA highlights that the Power and Data Unit affected by the backup failure remains fully functional through its primary channel for the “non-crewed test flight” which may suggest a different decision could have been reached if astronauts were to be on board.

Artemis I is the first of at least three planned missions to return to the Moon and establish an ongoing presence on Earth’s largest satellite. Artemis I will send the uncrewed Orion spacecraft to a journey around the Moon and back before astronauts fly on Artemis II and reach the surface of the Moon on Artemis III.

As for NASA’s rocket that will send Orion to the Moon, Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi is on track to complete final testing of Space Launch System’s core stage as early as this month. 

After the rocket goes through what’s called a wet dress rehearsal, the final test step in which engineers fire the mega rocket in place for up to 8 minutes to collect data before flight will wrap up core stage testing before assembly is completed at Kennedy Space Center.

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