NASA loses contact with Artemis 1's Orion spacecraft for 47 minutes

A photo of the moon and Earth taken by cameras on board NASA's Orion capsule as it makes a close approach to the lunar surface.
A photo of the moon and Earth taken by cameras on board NASA's Orion capsule as it makes a close approach to the lunar surface. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA unexpectedly lost contact with its moonbound Orion capsule early Wednesday morning (Nov. 23), for reasons that remain unclear.

The uncrewed Orion has been performing well since launching toward the moon last Wednesday (Nov. 16) on NASA's Artemis 1 mission. But this Wednesday (Nov. 23) brought a blip: Mission controllers lost communication with Orion at 1:09 a.m. EST (0609 GMT) while reconfiguring a link between the capsule and the Deep Space Network, the set of radio dishes that NASA uses to talk to its farflung spacecraft.

"The reconfiguration has been conducted successfully several times in the last few days, and the team is investigating the cause of the loss of signal," NASA officials wrote in a brief update on Wednesday (opens in new tab)

"The team resolved the issue with a reconfiguration on the ground side," they added. "Engineers are examining data from the event to help determine what happened, and the command and data handling officer will be downlinking data recorded onboard Orion during the outage to include in that assessment."

Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates
More: 10 wild facts about the Artemis 1 moon mission

The communication outage lasted 47 minutes, and Orion came out of it in good shape; the spacecraft is healthy and suffered no apparent ill effects, NASA officials said.

Orion is gearing up for a crucial maneuver: It's scheduled to perform an engine burn on Friday (Nov. 25) that will insert the capsule into orbit around the moon. If all goes well, Orion will stay in that orbit for about a week, then head back toward Earth on Dec. 1. 

The capsule will arrive here with a parachute-aided splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast on Dec. 11.

Artemis 1 is a shakeout cruise for Orion and NASA's giant Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever to fly successfully. The duo are slated to fly astronauts for the first time in 2024 on Artemis 2, which will send a crewed Orion around the moon.

Artemis 3 will follow a year or so later, landing astronauts near the moon's south pole — the place where NASA aims to build a crewed outpost, one of the main goals of its Artemis program.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.

  • Mark001
    Is there any indication that this loss of signal could be due to jamming or sabotage from an un freindly nation like Russia or North Korea?
    Reply
  • LabRat
    Has NASA 'Lost contact again', or is their web server (http://www.nasa.gov/specials/trackartemis/) just getting overloaded?

    This message was displayed at 08:03:03 (D:H:M). Mission Elapsed Time.

    TRYING TO RECONNECT We temporarily lost our signal and are trying
    to reconnect - hang tight. While we work on
    it, please try refreshing the page, or check
    nasa.gov for mission updates.

    Reply