Space

Orion spacecraft crew capsule completed and ready for fueling

The Orion capsule getting ready to receive its skin prior to fueling (Image: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
The Orion capsule getting ready to receive its skin prior to fueling (Image: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
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The Orion crew module and service module moves out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (Image: NASA/Dan Casper)
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The Orion crew module and service module moves out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (Image: NASA/Dan Casper)
The Orion capsule getting ready to receive its skin prior to fueling (Image: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
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The Orion capsule getting ready to receive its skin prior to fueling (Image: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
The Orion crew and service module stack (Image: NASA/Dan Casper)
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The Orion crew and service module stack (Image: NASA/Dan Casper)

NASA’s return to manned spaceflight took a couple of major steps forward this week with the completion of the Orion crew capsule and the attachment of it and the previously-completed service module to the adapter that will connect Orion to its rocket. The developments mark the completion of all major components of the spacecraft, which is due to make its first test flight in December.

With the installation of the world's largest heat shield and attachment of its inert service module in June, all that remains for the 5 m (16.5 ft) diameter spacecraft is fueling and attachment of its launch abort system before installation atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket.

In readiness for this, on Thursday NASA moved the Orion from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will be fueled with ammonia and hyper propellants. Once fueling is completed, the launch abort system will be installed.

The Orion crew module and service module moves out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (Image: NASA/Dan Casper)
The Orion crew module and service module moves out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (Image: NASA/Dan Casper)

This unmanned test flight will be NASA’s first chance to observe how well Orion works in space before it's sent on its first mission on the Space Launch System (SLS), which is currently under development by NASA and is scheduled to fly no later than 2018.

The Orion is NASA’s first manned spacecraft project to reach test-flight status since the Space Shuttle first flew in the 1980s. It is designed to carry up to six astronauts on deep space missions to Mars and asteroids, either on its own or using a habitat module for missions longer than 21 days. In December, Exploration Flight Test-1 will send Orion 3,600 mi (5,800 km) into space.

"Nothing about building the first of a brand new space transportation system is easy," says Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. "But the crew module is undoubtedly the most complex component that will fly in December. The pressure vessel, the heat shield, parachute system, avionics– piecing all of that together into a working spacecraft is an accomplishment. Seeing it fly in three months is going to be amazing."

The time lapse video below shows Orion on the move.

Source: NASA

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Moves in Preparation for First Flight

8 comments
Ryan Johnson
I am not understanding why, they are building the orion ? seems to small for a long term space travel to mars, the inside seems way to small for much room. what they going to do put them to sleep for 6 to 8 months ? seems like a big hype of only going to the moon here, and no point to go there, to me, this is a design that is already set to fail. and the rockets are only 20% more powerfull then from the 70's. Yet again. No big gain here. How are they going to move around ? exercise in the orion, looks way to small for a long term trip to mars. This is nothing more than a capsule. allot of hype for a waste of money Do not even se where added bays would go ? anyone know ? they making added pods, bays ? hold rovers and land vehicles and a return to mars ground launcher ?.
ivan4
One really does have to ask why NASA is living in the past? You would think they would have moved on to a reusable, one day turnaround space plane by now, or is this just a way of transferring the pork from the barrel to the members of the United Launch Alliance?
StWils
They cannot move fast enough to prove this system for manned launch. Sergei Lavrov and Putin were not really kidding about Americans having to use a trampoline to get the ISS. It will be nice to able to Putin to shove it sometime soon.
Slowburn
@ StWils I'll wait for a manned Dragon.
stew
The space program ,public, is just a joke. The real space program, secret, is advanced
Slowburn
@ ivan4 The shuttle is horribly designed because of both bad decisions by NASA (Using LH {Liquid Hydrogen} as fuel and limiting the wingspan so that it could come out though the doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building with the wings spread wide.) and Rockwell has a long history of not understanding that fuel is cheap and maintenance is expensive. It is almost like the shuttle was designed by people that believed that reusable space craft is a bad idea and set out to prove it.
Slowburn
@ stew If it is secret how do you know about it?
Martin Winlow
@slowburn - Replace the 'S' in NASA with a 'D' and this might explain why NASA is stuck in the 20th century! MW