On November 16th, NASA successfully debuted its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion capsule with a long-awaited launch from Kennedy Space Center, for what will be a more than month-long journey around the Moon. And as was the case for the first missions to the Moon, DuPont™ Kapton® polyimide films are onboard.
Artemis is NASA's program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2025, eventually preparing the way for human missions to Mars. Artemis I is an uncrewed flight test, to get ready for the Artemis II crewed mission around the Moon in mid-2024. The Artemis III manned lunar landing mission planned for 2025. A key part of the Artemis program is eventually creating a Moon-orbiting space station called Gateway, that will provide essential support for long-term human return to the lunar surface and will serve as a staging point for deep space exploration.
Kapton® polyimide film is used throughout Artemis and the mission’s associated payloads to reduce the electrical conductivity between cables and other components, shield the cables from radiation, and reduce Electromagnetic Interference (EMI). The PTCS (Passive Thermal Control Subsystem) also utilizes Kapton® thermofoil heaters to protect the electronics from extreme cold temperatures. Thin and lightweight, these foil heaters can be bent to handle a range of curves and irregular surfaces. Multilayer Insulation (MLI) blankets made from Kapton® are helping to help protect the spacecraft from extreme hot and cold temperatures.
The Orion capsule will travel 280,000 miles from Earth and will stay in space longer than any human spacecraft has before without docking to a space station and will return home faster and hotter than any previous lunar mission. About two hours after the launch, Orion separated from the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) and deployed ten small satellites, known as CubeSats, to study the sun, the moon and even near-Earth asteroids. As Orion continues to the Moon, it will be propelled by a service module provided by ESA (European Space Agency) that will course-correct as needed along the way. The service module supplies the spacecraft’s main propulsion system and power.
The trip to the Moon will take several days, during which time engineers will evaluate the spacecraft’s systems. Orion will fly about 60 miles (97 kilometers) above the surface of the Moon at its closest approach, and then use the Moon’s gravitational force to propel Orion into a distant retrograde orbit, traveling about 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) past the Moon. This distance is 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers) farther than the previous record set during Apollo 13 and the farthest in space any spacecraft built for humans has flown.
For its return trip to Earth, Orion will get another gravity assist from the Moon by firing engines at precisely the right time to harness the Moon’s gravity and accelerate back toward Earth, setting itself on a trajectory to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
With more than 60 years of demonstrated performance, reliability and durability Kapton® is a solution on which NASA has depended to protect the sensitive electronic equipment that advances with every mission. The Artemis project’s success rides on the experience and expertise of DuPont’s high-flying advanced material solutions.
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