Orion arrives at Kennedy Space Center

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The Orion spacecraft’s crew module secured into its structural assembly tool(Credit: Lockheed Martin)

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The second Orion Crew module has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center's Operations & Checkout Facility after a flight by Superguppy from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. According to primary contractor Lockheed Martin, the 2,700-lb (1,225 kg) spacecraft has been secured in its structural assembly tool called the "birdcage," where it will undergo testing and assembly for its first flight atop the Space Launch System on the unmanned Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) scheduled for November 2018.

Lockheed says that the tests are designed to ascertain the structural integrity of the Orion crew module before the other elements are integrated into the spacecraft. It will be subjected to proof-pressure testing to determine the soundness of the welding, which will then be inspected with phased array technology. Meanwhile, the fluid system's welds will also be pressure tested and inspected with X-rays.

Lockheed hopes that experience from the development and construction of the first Orion crew module will allow it to lighten future Orion craft while speeding up and simplifying manufacturing and reducing costs.

"The [new Orion] is 500 lb (228 kg) lighter than its Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) counterpart," says Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin Orion vice president and program manager. "Once the final structural components such as longerons, bolts, and brackets are added, total crew module structural weight savings from EFT-1 to EM-1 will total 700 lb (317 kg)."

Once the crew module passes its tests, it will undergo final assembly, and testing in preparation for EM-1.

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