Lockheed Martin completed building the capsule for NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the Artemis missions to the Moon and then Mars. The crew module capsule for the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission to the Moon has been stacked on top of the Orion service module, which was also recently finished. The ceremony for the completion was held in front of the Orion spacecraft in the aptly-named Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida — coinciding with the 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
“Orion is a new class of spaceship, uniquely designed for long-duration deep space flight, that will return astronauts to the Moon and eventually take the first humans to Mars, and bring them all back safely.” said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. “Orion will accelerate scientific discovery of our solar system and will be the cornerstone of the defining space achievement of this era.”
The Orion crew module pressure vessel and structural elements feature advanced aluminum-lithium alloys that are designed to meet the structural requirements of the vessel, while keeping weight low. Components are joined using friction stir welding.
After the crew module pressure vessel arrived in Florida, technicians and engineers from Lockheed Martin, NASA, and supporting contractors meticulously assembled the capsule into its finished state. The work included installing the capsule’s avionic computers, harnesses, propulsion system, 12 engines, 11 parachutes, large 16-foot-diameter heat shield, forward bay cover, and numerous other systems and components.
“Throughout assembly, the team tested and validated the many systems a hundred different ways to ensure they will operate as designed in the harshness of deep space,” said Mike Hawes, Orion program manager for Lockheed Martin. “The Artemis 1 flight will test the design and workmanship of the capsule and its service module during the three-week mission out around the Moon and back. We’re excited for this mission as it paves the way for the first crewed mission in 2022, Artemis 2.”
The crew module and service module were stacked together in the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) cell, where they are now being fully integrated, including connecting the physical retention bolts and the umbilical lines between the two modules.
The combined stack will then be powered up and undergo a series of integrated systems tests. In September, the combined stack will be shipped to NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, where it will go through environmental testing in a large thermal vacuum chamber as well as testing for electromagnetic interference and compatibility.
The Orion spacecraft is considered to be like none other in its design and capability, bringing the goal of humans again walking on the Moon (and eventually Mars) one giant leap closer. Launch processing is planned for 2020.