Teams with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Exploration Ground Systems and primary contractor, Jacobs, are fueling the Orion service module ahead of the Artemis I mission. The spacecraft currently resides in Kennedy’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility alongside the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System (ICPS), the rocket’s upper stage that will send Orion to the Moon. After servicing, these elements will be integrated with the flight components of the Space Launch System, which are being assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building.
Technicians began loading Orion’s service module with oxidizer, which will power the Orbital Maneuvering System main engine and auxiliary thrusters on the European-built service module ahead of propellant loading. These auxiliary thrusters stabilize and control the rotation of the spacecraft after it separates from the ICPS. Once the service module is loaded, teams will fuel the crew module to support thermal control of the internal avionics and the reaction control system. These 12 thrusters steady the crew module and control its rotation after separation from the service module.
Once Orion servicing is complete, teams will fill the ICPS. This liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system will push the spacecraft beyond the Moon for the test flight under the agency’s Artemis program. In several weeks, when fueling is complete, Orion will move to the center’s Launch Abort System Facility to integrate its launch abort system, and the ICPS will move to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be stacked atop the mobile launcher.
NASA’s Artemis IOrion spacecraft is being outfitted with additional artwork as technicians began installing the logo for ESA (European Space Agency). ESA provided the European-built service module, which provides power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, and will also provide water and air for astronauts on future missions.
Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions. The ESA logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch.
Orion is currently stationed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility, where it will undergo fueling and servicing by NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs Technology teams in preparation for the upcoming flight test with the Space Launch System rocket under the agency’s Artemis program.
NASA marked another milestone on the path toward the launch of Artemis I on Saturday, as engineers moved the Orion spacecraft out of the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building on its way to the Multi-Payload Processing Facility (MPPF) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the spacecraft will be fueled for its mission around the Moon.
The milestone marked completion of years of assembly and testing operations for the spacecraft and formal transfer of the spacecraft from the Orion Program and its prime contractor Lockheed Martin to NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team responsible for processing the vehicle, integrating it with the Space Launch System rocket, and launching them on their inaugural mission together.
The spacecraft was moved out of the O&C aboard a transport pallet and air bearing system which sits on top of a transporter. In the MPPF, it will be moved into a service stand that provides 360-degree access, allowing engineers and technicians from EGS, its lead contractor Jacobs Technology, and other support organizations to fuel and service the spacecraft. Crane operators will remove the transportation cover and use fuel lines and several fluid ground support equipment panels to load the various gases and fluids into the crew and service modules.
After Orion is fueled and engineers perform final checks in the MPPF, they will move the spacecraft to the Launch Abort System Facility, where EGS will install the Launch Abort System tower and the ogive panels that protect the crew module and LAS and provide its aerodynamic shape.
Orion is a critical component for NASA’s deep space exploration plans. During Artemis I, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown – 280,000 miles from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
NASA’s new Orion spacecraft now is at its launch pad after completing its penultimate journey in the early hours Wednesday. It arrived at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:07 a.m. EST, where the spacecraft then was hoisted up about 200 feet and placed atop the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into orbit. Over the course of the three weeks that remain until the Dec. 4 liftoff, the spacecraft will be fully connected to the rocket and powered on for final testing and preparations.
The Orion spacecraft is ready to begin the final leg of its prelaunch journey with an overnight rollout from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Weather conditions at the Florida spaceport have improved significantly since yesterday evening, when winds and the threat of lightning violated safety rules and kept the spacecraft indoors one more night.
The six-hour journey to the launch pad is planned to begin at about 8:30 p.m. Orion is expected to arrive at the launch complex around 2 a.m. It will then be lifted into place and attached atop the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.
Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance (ULA) have jointly decided to postpone by 24 hours the move of the Orion spacecraft from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System Facility to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37. The forecast Monday evening calls for winds and lightning that violate the constraints established for safely moving Orion. The delay will not affect the planned Dec. 4 launch of Orion atop a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket.
Engineers and technicians have completed their careful work in preparing the Orion spacecraft for launch and the time has come to move the next generation spaceship to the launch pad to United Launch Alliance’s waiting Delta IV-Heavy rocket. The move is the latest major milestone ahead of the launch of this first flight test which will be flown without a crew. The mission was designed to make sure the spacecraft and heat shield can handle the stresses envisioned for future flights that call for Orion to safely take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit to deep space destinations including asteroids. Orion is a vital element in NASA’s plan to eventually send astronauts on a journey to Mars.
Tonight though, Orion’s trip is confined to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A news briefing at 4:30 p.m. ET will precede the move and include comments from Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy, Ellen Ochoa, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Mark Geyer, Orion’s program manager, and Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin Orion program manager. The trip will begin at 8 p.m. at the Launch Abort System Facility where a 52-foot-tall protective fairing and the launch abort system were attached to the 10-foot, 11-inch-tall crew module. About six hours later, around 2 a.m., Orion will arrive at Space Launch Complex 37B. Orion will be lifted to the top of the Delta IV Heavy later that morning.
All of which sets the stage for a liftoff December 4 at 7:05 a.m. EST on a mission that will see Orion fly about 3,600 miles above Earth during two orbits before returning to the planet and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. It’s an important first step toward NASA’s next giant leap.