Advanced Manufacturing

Image courtesy: NASA

NASA's Orion Spacecraft is complete, assembled, and ready for integration ahead of final testing

With the Orion, a spacecraft like none other in its design and capability, the goal of humans again walking on the Moon is one giant leap closer.

Lockheed Martin Corporation has finished building the capsule for NASA's Orion spacecraft – the spacecraft for the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon – which now sits atop the recently constructed Orion service module.

While the first mission will be uncrewed, it will pave the way for future missions where NASA astronauts revisit the lunar surface.

“Orion is a new class of spaceship, uniquely designed for long-duration deep space flight, that will return astronauts to the Moon and eventually take the first humans to Mars, and bring them all back safely,” says Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. “Orion will accelerate scientific discovery of our solar system and will be the cornerstone of the defining space achievement of this era.”

 

Learn more about spacecraft technology and assembly

 

Technicians and engineers from Lockheed Martin, NASA, and supporting contractors meticulously assembled the capsule into its finished state. The work included installing the capsule's avionic computers, harnesses, propulsion system and its 12 engines, 11 parachutes, its large 16-foot-diameter heat shield, forward bay cover, and numerous other systems and components. 

 

Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin Corporation

 

“Throughout assembly, the team tested and validated the many systems a hundred different ways to ensure they will operate as designed in the harshness of deep space,” says Mike Hawes, Orion program manager for Lockheed Martin. “The Artemis 1 flight will test the design and workmanship of the capsule and its service module during the three-week mission out around the Moon and back. We're excited for this mission as it paves the way for the first crewed mission in 2022, Artemis 2.”

The crew module and service module were stacked together earlier in the week in the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) cell where they are now being fully integrated, including connecting the physical retention bolts and the umbilical lines between the two modules. The FAST cell is also where the Apollo spacecraft were integrated.

 

Read more: Orion launch abort system passes full-stress flight test

 

 

The combined stack will then be powered up and undergo a series of integrated systems tests. In September, the combined stack will be shipped to NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio, where it will go through environmental testing in a large thermal vacuum chamber as well as testing for electromagnetic interference and compatibility.

Once Orion returns to Kennedy at the end of the year, the spacecraft will go through final preparations before Lockheed Martin delivers it to ground systems for launch processing in early 2020.

 

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.