Orion in Final Assembly

The Orion crew module is placed in a lift fixture to prepare for the heat shield installation. Image Source: Lockheed Martin

The Orion crew module is placed in a lift fixture to prepare for the heat shield installation. Image Source: Lockheed Martin

Denver, Colorado. May 21, 2014 – Lockheed Martin and NASA engineers have started the process of installing the largest heat shield ever built onto the Orion spacecraft’s crew module. The heat shield installation marks one of the final steps in the spacecraft’s assembly leading up to its first test flight, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), later this year.

EFT-1 will provide data about the heat shield’s ability to protect the crew module from the extreme 4000-degree heat of reentry and an ocean splashdown following Orion’s 20,000 mph reentry from space. In addition, key systems such as avionics, separation events, attitude control and guidance, parachute deployment, and ground operations will be evaluated.

“This team has done a great job keeping us on track for Orion’s first test flight,” said Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager. “That’s no easy task when you’re designing and building a unique vehicle for human exploration of deep space.”

EFT-1 is scheduled to launch on December 4, 2014 atop a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37. Comprehensive data from the test flight will influence design decisions most critical to crew safety to lower risks and safely carry humans on future missions to deep space.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

In the future, Orion will launch on NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System. More powerful than any rocket ever built, SLS will be capable of sending humans to deep space destinations such as an asteroid and eventually to Mars. Exploration Mission-1, scheduled for 2017, will be the first mission to integrate Orion and the Space Launch System.