Launch Abort System Installed for Orion Flight Test
NASA – The launch abort system for the Orion Flight Test is lowered by crane for installation on the Orion spacecraft inside the Launch Abort System Facility, or LASF, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The completed crew and service modules will be tested and verified together with the launch abort system. Orion will remain inside the LASF until mid-November, when the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket is ready for integration with the spacecraft.
Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars.
It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
The first unpiloted test flight of the Orion is scheduled to launch in December atop the Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to an altitude of 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface. The two-orbit, four-hour flight test will help engineers evaluate the systems critical to crew safety including the heat shield, parachute system and launch abort system.
Image Credit: NASA/Cory Huston
Rocket Boosters Prepared For Orion Spacecraft’s First Flight
NASA – Engineers took another step forward in preparations for the first test flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft in December. At the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF), at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, the three primary core elements of the ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket recently were integrated, forming the first stage of the launch vehicle that will send Orion far from Earth to allow NASA to evaluate the spacecraft’s performance in space.
The three common booster cores are 134 feet in length and 17 feet in diameter. Each has an RS-68 engine that uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant producing 656,000 pounds of thrust. All totaled, the three Delta IV boosters collectively generate 1.96 million pounds of thrust.
The upcoming flight test will use the Delta IV Heavy to launch the Orion and send it 3,600 miles in altitude beyond the Earth’s surface. During the two-orbit, four-hour mission, engineers will evaluate the systems critical to crew safety, the launch abort system, the heat shield and the parachute system. The data gathered during the mission will influence design decisions and validate existing computer models. The flight also will reduce overall mission risks and costs for later Orion flights.
> Delta IV Booster Integration Another Step Toward First Orion Flight
Image Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky
World’s Largest Spacecraft Welding Tool for Space Launch System
NASA – The largest spacecraft welding tool in the world, the Vertical Assembly Center, officially is open for business at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The 170-foot-tall, 78-foot-wide giant completes a world-class welding toolkit that will be used to build the core stage of America’s next great rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).
SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for deep space missions, including to an asteroid and eventually Mars. The core stage, towering more than 200 feet tall (61 meters) with a diameter of 27.6 feet (8.4 meters), will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the rocket’s RS-25 engines.
The Vertical Assembly Center is part of a family of state-of-the-art tools designed to weld the core stage of SLS. It will join domes, rings and barrels to complete the tanks or dry structure assemblies. It also will be used to perform evaluations on the completed welds. Boeing is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, including avionics.
> Release: NASA Unveils World’s Largest Spacecraft Welding Tool for Space Launch System
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Orion’s First Crew Module Complete
NASA – NASA’s first completed Orion crew module sits atop its service module at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The crew and service module will be transferred together on Wednesday to another facility for fueling, before moving again for the installation of the launch abort system.
At that point, the spacecraft will be complete and ready to stack on top of the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into space on its first flight in December.
For that flight, Exploration Flight Test-1, Orion will travel 3,600 miles above the Earth – farther than any spacecraft built to carry people has traveled in more than 40 years – and return home at speeds of 20,000 miles per hour, while enduring temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Image Credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak
Back Shell Tile Panels Installed on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft
NASA – Inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians dressed in clean-room suits have installed a back shell tile panel onto the Orion crew module and are checking the fit next to the middle back shell tile panel. Preparations are underway for Exploration Flight Test-1, or EFT-1.
Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The first unpiloted test flight of the Orion is scheduled to launch later this year atop a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to an altitude of 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface. The two-orbit, four-hour flight test will help engineers evaluate the systems critical to crew safety including the heat shield, parachute system and launch abort system.
> Engineers and Technicians Install Protective Shell on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft
Image Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Underway Recovery Tests for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft
NASA – A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft floats inside the well deck of the U.S.S. Anchorage on Aug. 2, 2014, during recovery tests off the coast of California. A combined NASA and U.S. Navy team practiced recovery techniques over the weekend, in preparation for Orion’s first trip to (and return from) space in Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) in December.
Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. After traveling 3,600 miles into space on the uncrewed EFT-1, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of 20,000 miles per hour and endure temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit before landing in the Pacific Ocean.
> NASA Prepares for Second Orion Underway Recovery Test
Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen
Orion Comes Together
NASA – The Orion crew module for Exploration Flight Test-1 is shown in the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) Cell, positioned over the service module just prior to mating the two sections together. The FAST cell is where the integrated crew and service modules are put through their final system tests prior to rolling out of the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Technicians are in position to assist with the final alignment steps once the crew module is nearly in contact with the service module. In December, Orion will launch 3,600 miles into space in a four-hour flight to test the systems that will be critical for survival in future human missions to deep space.
Image Credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak