August 26, 2016 – 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 August 25.
The heat shield arrived aboard NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility, and 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 in Littleton, Colorado and was loaded on the Super Guppy at Buckley Air Force Base.
The heat shield is the forebody or ‘wind’ facing side of an aeroshell system. Because of its size, the aeroshell experiences tremendous entry loads as a result of the dynamic pressures from the atmosphere and the high velocity of vehicle decent. Lockheed Martin has previously built all eight of the aeroshells that have protected NASA’s Mars-bound spacecraft, but Orion is unique because of its size and because the heat shield will play a critical role in protecting astronauts as they return to Earth. 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.