Artemis I Features Collection of Coatings Tech
Last week, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s historic uncrewed test flight Artemis 1 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis I is the first in a series of Space Launch System (SLS) missions and the first flight of the Orion MPVC spacecraft. According to reports, NASA’s SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built and will help the Administration to make scientific discoveries while extending the United States’ presence on the moon, allowing future endeavors to move farther and faster throughout the solar system.
About the Mission
After years of planning and a multitude of delays, Artemis I was first rolled out to the launch pad in March with hopes for a successful takeoff. Originally, the mission had been scheduled to launch in November 2021.
The vessel measures 322 feet tall, which includes NASA’s SLS rocket topped with an Orion spacecraft.
According to CNN, Artemis I is the first moon-bound rocket to leave the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in 50 years. The last rocket of this time to exit the building was Apollo 17 in 1972.
“Every single vehicle that has carried humans beyond the bounds of the low-Earth orbit has undergone integration and testing in that Vehicle Assembly Building, crawled down this roadway and launched right here from the Kennedy Space Center,” said Janet Petro, Director for Kennedy Space Center, at the time of the initial rollout.
On the weekend of April 1, the vessel underwent a wet dress rehearsal, which involved running through operations for loading propellent into the fuel tanks and countdown. After successful testing, Artemis I was returned to the assembly building where it was expected to blast off in May, June or July.
“Artemis I is such an important mission for us,” said Howard Hu, Manager of the Orion program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It’s gathering very critical engineering data and validating our performance capability as spacecraft for our next mission and beyond – Artemis 2 with the crew and future missions as we go further and expand our capabilities in the solar system.”
In addition to establishing a long-term presence on the moon and preparing for the continued exploration of Mars, the mission is the first step in NASA’s program to land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon later in the 2020s.
In the totality of its journey, Artemis I will send the uncrewed Orion spacecraft to the moon and thousands of miles beyond it. The mission is slated to last several weeks and will conclude with Orion splashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Following this mission, NASA is planning to send a crew on Artemis II for a flyby of the moon in 2023. Artemis III is expected to return astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024.
“There’s no doubt that we are in a golden era of human space exploration, discovery and ingenuity in space, and it all begins with Artemis, I,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson during the rollout in March.
“The Space Launch System is the only rocket capable of sending humans into deep space. It’s the most powerful rocket in the world. Orion will venture farther than any spacecraft built for humans. And after a three-week journey of over a million miles, Orion will come home faster and hotter than any vehicle has before.”
After additional delays, Artemis I officially took off on Nov. 16.
Artemis I Materials
Back in September 2020, NASA reported that teams had applied its historic logo—also referred to as the “worm”—on visible parts of the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft. Originally introduced in 1975, the worm logo was retired in 1992, but brought back for the latest slew of planned Artemis missions.
“After almost three decades, our famous logotype is back in action, and it is thrilling for all of us that worked on the original design to have it return in such an impressive way.” said Richard Danne, of the design team at Danne & Blackburn who originally created the logo, at the time. “It is particularly exciting to be involved with the Artemis program, so full of potential beginning with this promising first mission.”
According to the Administration, coatings work for the worm logos was launched at the end of August 2020, when workers with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and their contractor Jacobs started painting the iconic design across two of the SLS booster segments.
The crew reportedly used a laser projector to mask off the logo with tape. This was followed by the application of the logo inside the center’s Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility. In total, the logo received two coats of paint and several clear coating applications.
We're returning to the Moon, and our historic "worm" logo will be along for the ride. At @NASAKennedy, teams applied the logo to the @NASA_SLS rocket that will launch with our @NASA_Orion spacecraft on the #Artemis I mission: https://t.co/Pdw9JcRVwn pic.twitter.com/LfeDFFyajN— NASA (@NASA) September 30, 2020
“The most technically challenging task was identifying the correct sizing and location of where the logo was to go,” said William Richards, an engineer with Jacobs, the lead contractor supporting booster stacking operations. “New laser technology helped us lay it out in the correct position to mask off for the painting and correctly shape the letters, especially the curve of the ‘S’.”
In addition to these applications, technicians were also noted to have cut additional emblems into flight-proof decals and adhere them to the underside of Orion’s crew module adapter (CMA).
The decals were affixed to the spacecraft by Frank Pelkey, a technician who previously painted the U.S. flag on the spacecraft that flew on NASA’s Exploration Flight Test-1. “I felt a great sense of pride when painting the U.S. flag on Orion’s first flight,” said Pelkey. “It was that same feeling of gratitude to be selected to apply the NASA and ESA logos to the vehicle for the first Artemis mission.”
After the boosters were transferred to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking, technicians planned to secure an access panel across the middle section of the boosters and paint it to complete the insignia.
In an emailed press release, Acrymax Technologies, Inc. (Media, Pennsylvania) shared that it was responsible for engineering a coating system for the bright red NASA worm logo. In addition to the SLS boosters, the worm and European Space Agency (ESA) logos were also applied to the Orion spacecraft.
“At Acrymax, we are very proud of our participation in the U.S. Space program. Beginning with the Space Shuttle in 1996 and now with the Artemis program, we have supplied engineered elastomeric coatings that meet the exact specifications developed for NASA,” wrote the company.
In addition to coatings that were used for the worm logos, Acrymax coating systems were also used to protect the insulation on the solid rocket boosters (SRBs).
Eric Bennung, Vice President of Acrymax, recently returned from the Kennedy Space Center where he met with representatives of Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor for the SLS rockets.
“The word awesome is overused in our culture – but standing next to the SLS – no other word better described how I felt. Truly inspiring the feats of engineering that went into the construction and development of the entirety of the Space Launch System. Artemis is aptly named – the twin sister of Apollo. The foundation laid by that original space program, as well as the Shuttle, holds a special reverence about them. At Acrymax, we are humbled and honored to be part of that storied history,” said Bennung.
In the days following the launch of Artemis I, Imagineering Finishing Technologies (South Bend, Indiana) shared that it had also been involved with critical components of the spacecraft’s SLS. According to reports, the company provides non-destructive testing, paint and Chemical Conversion Coatings on rocket components.
Imagineering Finishing Technologies was first contacted by NASA in 2012 and has since processed hundreds of large components for NASA's Space Launch System platform. The company has even worked with other engineers to develop proper chemical processes.
“It is incredibly satisfying as a trusted metal finishing advisor and supplier to watch a live launch of a spacecraft knowing that Imagineering processed some of the components being carried into space,” said Jim Hammer, CEO of Imagineering Finishing Technologies.
Recent Research for NASA
In September, NASA announced that it selected three companies to work on deployable solar array systems for exploration on the Moon. A total of $19.4 million has been awarded to build prototypes and perform environmental testing.
These systems are expected to help power both human and robotic lunar exploration through Artemis missions, with a goal of establishing long-term presence near the lunar South Pole. To provide a reliable and sustainable power source, NASA reports it is supporting the development of vertical solar arrays that can autonomously deploy up to 32 feet high and retract for relocation if necessary.
The designs must reportedly remain stable on sloped terrain and be resistant to abrasive lunar dust, all while minimizing both mass and stowed volume to aid in the system’s delivery to the lunar surface. The goal is to deploy one of the systems near the Moon’s South Pole near the end of this decade.
In August, a coating developed by a Florida International University lab to protect equipment on the lunar surface from radiation was scheduled to be studied on the International Space Station. For the research, which was expected to take place this fall, a sample of the coating will be mounted outside the facility for exposure to space, then analyzed for its resistance to radiation.
FIU’s Plasma Forming Laboratory from the College of Engineering and Computing reportedly developed an innovative coating material to shield structures, such as rovers or excavation tools, against radiation levels up to 1,000 times greater than on Earth.
The research arrived as NASA’s Artemis Program plans to build the first-ever base camp on the lunar surface. Radiation on the moon can interrupt signal processing in electronics and shorten the service life of structures.
The coating sample will be placed directly facing the sun on the ISS. FIU and NASA scientists will both watch closely for how the coating changes temperature as the space station orbits Earth. After six months, a crew of astronauts will take the material back to Earth for analysis.
And in January, polymer coatings research conducted by the University of Idaho was launched and installed at the International Space Station, with hopes to minimize bacterial transmission. The university was one of five selected through NASA’s Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science (SPOCS) nationwide competition.
The coatings were tested on an aluminum alloy used in high-contact areas throughout the ISS, such as handrails and door handles, to test how microgravity affects the efficacy of the polymers known to resist bacteria adhesion on Earth.