by Dr. Ken Kremer
NASA is making steady progress toward liftoff of the inaugural space-bound Orion crew capsule. The agency aims for a Florida blastoff of the Exploration Flight Test-1 mission (EFT-1) in September 2014 atop a Delta 4 Heavy Booster. Orion will ultimately fly astronauts to deep space destinations including the Moon, Asteroids and Mars.
I recently inspected the Orion during an exclusive follow-up visit to the cavernous manufacturing assembly facility in the Operations and Checkout Building (O & C) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), where the vehicle is under construction by prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Since the welded shell structure arrived at KSC during my prior visit, Lockheed technicians have made noticeable progress preparing for the uncrewed EFT-1 mission.
Lots of hardware is arriving from contractors and subcontractors from all across the U.S. for integration with the crew cabin, said Jules Schneider, Orion Project manager for Lockheed Martin at KSC, during an interview beside Orion. Technicians were busily installing avionics, wiring, instrumentation and electrical components as the crew module was sitting inside the Structural Assembly Jig during my follow-up visit. The Jig has multiple degrees of freedom to move the capsule and enable assembly work.
“Since July and to the end of 2012 our primary focus is finishing the structural assembly of the crew module,” said Schneider. “That includes all the mechanical assembly inside and out on the primary structure and all the secondary structure including the bracketry. We are putting in the windows and gussets and installing the forward bay structure leading to the tunnel and the aft end components leading to the service module. We are also installing secondary subsystem components like avionics boxes, thruster pods, test instrumentation, strain gauges, accelerometers, thermocouples and other gauges to give us data as parts roll in here, since that’s what this flight is all about – this is a test article for a test flight.”
Astronomy Outreach by Dr. Ken Kremer
Ken Kremer: Spaceflight magazine & Universe Today