Orion Crew Module Plumbing to Undergo Proof Pressure Testing

Orion spacecraft in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center.The Orion crew module was moved from a work station to the proof pressure cell in the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 26 to prepare for testing.

Engineers and technicians with NASA and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin, will prepare the crew module for a series of proof pressure and leak tests to confirm the welded joints of the propulsion and Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) tubing are solid and capable of withstanding launch, re-entry and landing.

The Orion propulsion system includes the propellant and thrusters which support deorbit and re-entry of the spacecraft while the ECLSS provides cooling for interior and exterior components on the crew module throughout the mission.

Technicians will attach ground support equipment to the propulsion and ECLSS tubing, and use helium to pressurize the tubing to its proof pressure and to higher pressures at which the weld joints will be checked for leakage.

For its uncrewed flight test, Orion will be outfitted with most of the systems needed for a crewed mission during its first flight atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket from Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy.

Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Orion Crew Module Adapter Lifted in Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

The Orion crew module adapter was lifted Nov. 11 and lowered onto a test stand for further testing.
The Orion crew module adapter was lifted out of its work stand Nov. 11 and is now undergoing secondary structure outfitting in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/ Glen Benson

Processing activity at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has ramped up in preparation for the agency’s launch of the Orion spacecraft atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on its first deep space mission, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1).

The Orion crew module adapter (CMA) for EM-1 was lifted for the first and only time, Nov. 11, during its processing flow inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building high bay at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A crane lowers the Orion crew module structural test article onto a test tool called the birdcage Nov. 16.

Technicians with Lockheed Martin, the Orion crew module manufacturer, lowered the adapter onto a test stand for secondary structure outfitting. The CMA will be moved into a temporary clean room at the end of the month for propellant and environmental control and life support system tube installation and welding.

The adapter will connect the Orion crew module to the European Space Agency-provided service module. The Orion spacecraft will launch on the SLS rocket on EM-1 scheduled for late 2018.

In the meantime, the Orion crew module structural test article (STA), pictured above right, arrived in its shipping container at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility aboard the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft Nov. 15 from the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.  The test article was transported to Stennis from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

The container was offloaded and transported to the O&C on Nov. 16 where it was uncrated. Technicians removed the test module’s protective covering. Then it was lifted by crane and moved to a test tool called a birdcage where it was secured for further testing. The test article will undergo mechanical assembly for the next several months before being transported to Lockheed Martin in Denver for additional testing.

Above right photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Navy Divers Rehearse Orion Underway Recovery at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Divers train for Orion recovery in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at Johnson Space Center in Houston.A group of U.S. Navy divers, Air Force pararescuemen and Coast Guard rescue swimmers are practicing Orion underway recovery techniques this week in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to prepare for the first test flight of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft with the agency’s Space Launch System rocket during Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1).

Training in the NBL began Sept. 20 and will wrap up by Sept. 22.

A test version of the Orion spacecraft was lowered into the water in the NBL. Divers wearing scuba gear used ground support equipment and zodiac boats to swim or steer to the test spacecraft. They placed a flotation collar around Orion and practiced using the new tow cleat modifications that will allow the tether lines to be connected to the capsule. The tether lines are being used to simulate towing Orion into the well deck of a Navy recovery ship.

Training at the NBL will help the team prepare for Underway Recovery Test 5 (URT-5), which will be the first major integrated test in a series of tests to prepare the recovery team, hardware and operations to support EM-1 recovery.

The recovery team, engineers with NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations program and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin, are preparing for URT-5, which will take place in San Diego and aboard the USS San Diego in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California in October.

During EM-1, Orion will travel about 40,000 miles beyond the moon and return to Earth after a three-week mission to test the spacecraft’s systems and heat shield. Orion will travel through the radiation of the Van Allen Belts, descend through Earth’s atmosphere and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Photo credit: NASA/James Blair

Orion Heat Shield for Exploration Mission 1 Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

Orion heat shield for Exploration Mission 1 arrives at Kennedy Space Center.The heat shield that will protect the Orion crew module during re-entry after the spacecraft’s first uncrewed flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket in 2018 arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 25. The heat shield arrived aboard NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility, was offloaded and transported to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building high bay today.

The heat shield was designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the company’s facility near Denver. Orion’s heat shield will help it endure the approximately 5,000 degrees F it will experience upon reentry. The heat shield measures 16.5 feet in diameter.

Orion is the spacecraft that will carry astronauts to deep-space destinations, including the journey to Mars. Orion will be equipped with power, communications and life support systems to sustain space travelers during their journey, and return them safely back to Earth.

For more information about Orion, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/orion/index.html

Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

The Tiles that Bond

technicians prepare to bond thermal protection system tiles on the Orion crew module for the agency’s first uncrewed flight test with the Space Launch System (SLS) on NASA’s Journey to Mars.In the photo above, technicians prepare to bond thermal protection system tiles on the Orion crew module for the agency’s first uncrewed flight test with the Space Launch System (SLS) on NASA’s Journey to Mars. The work is taking place inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

While similar to those used on the space shuttle, Orion only requires about 1,300 tiles compared to more than 24,000 on the shuttle. The tiles, along with the spacecraft’s heatshield, will protect Orion from the 5,000 degree Fahrenheit heat of re-entry.
Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Upgrades Establish Kennedy’s Future

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More than five years of careful thought, in-depth planning and detailed refurbishments have set up Kennedy Space Center for diverse exploration missions that will push astronauts and robotic spacecraft into new areas of accomplishment, said, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center director, Bob Cabana at the National Space Club Florida Committee meeting today in Cape Canaveral.

“We’re not just making a difference for Kennedy or even the nation, we’ve got a meaningful mission and we are making a difference for all of humankind,” Cabana, a former astronaut, told the group of about 375 in attendance.

By focusing on piloted missions to the International Space Station using Commercial Crew Program spacecraft, followed by Space Launch System and Orion flight tests, Kennedy has established a ground support network of launch pads and associated infrastructure needed to support missions to Mars by astronauts in the future. All of this while maintaining the center’s unique ability to launch historic robotic exploration missions such as Osiris-Rex that will bring back a sample from an asteroid. Other flights in the future will continue to decipher the mysteries of Mars as well as taking close looks at other planetary networks in the solar system.

The center has seen complete upgrades in many areas including the Launch Control Center, Launch Complex 39B and modifications to the Mobile Launcher tailored to the needs of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. Other facilities have been upgraded for commercial partners. The center’s new headquarters campus is under construction to deliver an environmentally friendly, energy efficient structure.

“Our future is absolutely outstanding,” Cabana said. “I believe the years we have ahead of us will be our best ever.”

View Mr. Cabana’s complete presentation here.

Processing Begins on Orion Crew Module at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1

The Orion crew module pressure vessel is secured on a birdcage test stand in the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center.
The Orion crew module pressure vessel is secured on a test stand called the birdcage inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) has been secured in an upgraded version of a test stand called the birdcage in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The pressure vessel is the underlying structure of the Orion crew module. It arrived at Kennedy on Feb. 1 aboard NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at Kennedy. It was offloaded and transported to the O&C.

In the high bay, NASA and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin will prepare the vehicle for its mission. Over the next 18 months, more than 100,000 components will arrive at Kennedy and be integrated with the spacecraft by the team. It will be outfitted with its systems and subsystems necessary for flight, including its heat-shielding thermal protection system.

The Orion spacecraft will launch aboard NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on EM-1, a test flight that will take it thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.

For more information on EM-1, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/1SD5oVk.

Orion Crew module for Exploration Mission-1 Arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA's Super Guppy aircraft arrives at Kennedy Space Center.
NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft, carrying the Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, arrived at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Brittney Mostert

The Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) arrived today at the Shuttle Landing Facility operated by Space Florida at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Arrival of the module marks an important milestone toward the agency’s journey to Mars.

The crew module arrived aboard the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Welding work on the pressure vessel, which is the underlying structure of the crew module, was completed at Michoud.

The crew module was offloaded from the Super Guppy and readied for transport to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay for processing. In the high bay, NASA and Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin will outfit the crew module with its systems and subsystems necessary for flight, including its heat-shielding thermal protection system.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket will be the largest rocket ever built. It will carry the Orion spacecraft on EM-1, a test flight scheduled for 2018. During EM-1, Orion will travel thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of a three-week mission.

Veteran Shuttle Controller to Helm SLS/Orion Launches

Charlie Blackwell-ThompsonCharlie Blackwell-Thompson will be the first woman to oversee a NASA liftoff and launch team when the EM-1 mission launches in 2018 to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon on the strength of the Space Launch System rocket. Read Blackwell-Thompson’s perspective on the work already under way to prep the launch team for the historic day at http://go.nasa.gov/1Txf5p9