September 28, 2016 – David Osborne, an Aerie Aerospace LLC machinist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, takes measurements prior to the start of precision machining of the Orion stage adapter for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System.
The adapter will connect the Orion spacecraft to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) for the first flight of SLS with Orion in late 2018. The adapter will also carry 13 CubeSats that will perform science and technology investigations that will help pave the way for future human exploration in deep space, including the Journey to Mars.
The adapter’s top surface will be machined completely flat on a seven-axis mill turntable before hundreds of holes are drilled in it for bolting to the rest of the rocket. To complete the same work on the other side of the adapter, the hardware will later be flipped using a Posi-Turner load rotation device and an assembly jig, the ring that connects the Posi-Turner to the bottom of the adapter and rotates it. The adapter will then undergo inspections, and a special coating will be added to the top and bottom of the structure to make it more corrosion resistant.
The ICPS is the liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will give Orion the big, in-space push needed to fly beyond the moon before it returns to Earth.
The first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft, known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), is planned for 2018.