NASA and Lockheed Martin have completed final assembly and testing of the Orion spacecraft. The spacecraft will remain inside NASA's Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center until it rolls to launch pad 37 in November.
"An empty shell of a spacecraft arrived to Kennedy Space Center two years ago, and now we have a fully assembled Orion standing 72 feet tall," said Michael Hawes Lockheed Martin Orion program manager. "We're ready to launch it into space and test every inch."
The final assembly stages of the spacecraft included installing Orion's Ogive panels, which protect the crew module from harsh acoustic and vibration environments during launch and ascent. Engineers also installed fasteners to secure the panels in place and covered them with a thermal protection coating. Orion was then lifted by crane, rotated into the proper orientation for mating with the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle, and placed onto the transport pallet.
The team then performed a fairing purge test, which verifies how much dry gas needs to be pumped into the space between the Ogive panels and the spacecraft. The dry gas ensures that when Orion is transported to the launch pad, it does not accumulate moisture, which could cause corrosion and contamination.
When Orion arrives to launch pad 37 it will immediately be lifted 170 feet up and mated to the Delta IV Heavy. Over the next few weeks, the rocket and spacecraft will be integrated, powered up, and interfaces between the two will be verified in preparation for Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) on December 4.