Orion Heat Shield Installed for NASA’s Artemis II Mission

The heat shield for the Artemis II Orion spacecraft
Installation of the heat shield for the Artemis II Orion spacecraft was recently completed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

On June 25, 2023, teams completed installation of the heat shield for the Artemis II Orion spacecraft inside the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The 16.5-foot-wide heat shield is one of the most important systems on the Orion spacecraft ensuring a safe return of the astronauts on board. As the spacecraft returns to Earth following its mission around the Moon, it will be traveling at speeds of about 25,000 mph and experience outside temperatures of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the spacecraft, however, astronauts will experience a much more comfortable temperature in the mid-70s thanks to Orion’s thermal protection system.

Up next, the spacecraft will be outfitted with some of its external panels ahead of acoustic testing later this summer. These tests will validate the crew module can withstand the vibrations it will experience throughout the Artemis II mission, during launch, flight, and landing.

Once acoustic testing is complete, technicians will attach the crew module to Orion’s service module, marking a major milestone for the Artemis II mission, the first mission with astronauts under Artemis that will test and check out all of Orion’s systems needed for future crewed missions.

NASA’s Artemis II European Service Module is Making FAST Moves

Technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida operate a 30-ton crane to lift and transfer the Orion spacecraft’s service module into the FAST (final assembly and system testing) cell on May 22, 2023, inside the spaceport’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.

Teams are performing final checkouts of the Orion spacecraft’s service module before integrating the crew and service modules for Artemis II, the first Artemis mission with crew. In parallel, technicians from Airbus will conduct inspections of the solar array wings following the successful completion of service module acoustic testing in May, which ensured the service module can withstand the speed and vibration it will experience during launch and throughout the mission. During the inspections, each of the four panels will be fully redeployed and reexamined. The crew module also will undergo acoustic testing ahead of joining with the service module.

Provided by ESA (European Space Agency), the service module is the powerhouse that will fuel, propel, and provide in-space maneuvering capability, and is responsible for life support commodities such as water and breathable air for astronauts onboard Orion in support of future Artemis missions.

View additional imagery of the service module’s move to the final assembly and system testing cell.