• For full details of graphics available/in preparation, see Menu -> Planners
 Artemis I’s unusual Earth re-entry infographic
Graphic shows how the Orion spacecraft will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.


Artemis I to return to Earth with a “bump”... or rather “bounce”

By Ninian Carter

December 7, 2022 - Artemis I’s Orion vehicle is set to skip like a stone across Earth’s atmosphere during re-entry – a technique never before attempted by a passenger spacecraft.

The uncrewed Orion spacecraft, currently flying home from the moon, must survive 2,700°C temperatures when it slams into Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday.

NASA’s $20 billion Orion vehicle will return to Earth at a speed in excess of 32,000km/h – the fastest and hottest for any crew-rated spacecraft in history.

However, NASA is hoping a technique known as “long skip re-entry” will assist the capsule during the final leg of its mission, as opposed to a single deceleration event like the ones used for returning Apollo moon missions.

Orion carries an innovative new heat shield to deal with the high temperatures, and is dependant upon the success of the skip re-entry procedure in which the spacecraft will bounce off the atmosphere, temporarily return to space and then perform a second re-entry – lessening aerodynamic braking loads and temperatures, and reducing g-forces for a smoother ride.

Orion is due to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on Sunday, December 11, at around 17:40GMT.

PUBLISHED: 07/12/2022; STORY: Graphic News