Cape Canaveral, Florida. June 10, 2014 – Following the completion of the heat shield installation, Lockheed Martin has stacked the Orion crew module atop of the service module. The stacking took place inside the Final Assembly and System Test (FAST) cell inside the Operations and Checkout facility at Kennedy Space Center.
As part of the process to prepare for the crew and service modules to stack together, ballast weights were added to the vehicle to ensure that the crew module’s center of gravity meets design specifications. The specifications ensure that the vehicle can achieve the appropriate entry and descent performance and also ensure that the vehicle lands in the correct orientation to reduce structural impact loads.
Engineers began stacking the crew module on top of the completed service module Monday, the first step in moving the three primary Orion elements –crew module, service module and launch abort system – into the correct configuration for launch.
“Now that we’re getting so close to launch, the spacecraft completion work is visible every day,” said Mark Geyer, NASA’s Orion Program manager. “Orion’s flight test will provide us with important data that will help us test out systems and further refine the design so we can safely send humans far into the solar system to uncover new scientific discoveries on future missions.”
With the crew module now in place, the engineers will secure it and make the necessary power connections between to the service module over the course of the week. Once the bolts and fluid connector between the modules are in place, the stacked spacecraft will undergo electrical, avionic and radio frequency tests.
Once the testing is finished, the team will complete the following milestones leading up to Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1):
During EFT-1, the uncrewed spacecraft will launch on a Delta IV Heavy rocket and will travel 3,600 miles beyond low Earth orbit—15 times further than the International Space Station. That same day, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of approximately 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
EFT-1 will provide engineers with data about systems critical to crew safety such as heat shield performance, separation events, avionics and software performance, attitude control and guidance, parachute deployment, and recovery operations to validate designs of the spacecraft before it begins carrying humans to new destinations in deep space.