NASA, Lockheed Begin Assembly of Orion Crew Module for Lunar Mission

Orion_weldingA team of NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers has fused two sections of an Orion crew module that the agency intends to send into a lunar distant retrograde orbit with the Boeing-built Space Launch System.

The spacecraft’s tunnel and forward bulkhead were welded together on Saturday at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the agency said Wednesday.

“Every day, teams around the country are moving at full speed to get ready for Exploration Mission-1, when we’ll flight test Orion and SLS together in the proving ground of space, far away from the safety of Earth,” said Bill Hill, NASA deputy associate administrator of exploration systems development.

Lockheed and NASA also collaborated to lessen the number of structural pieces that technicians need to weld for Orion’s next mission by more than 50 percent.

The company said Tuesday the Michoud engineering team used a pathfinder vehicle to check design and welding changes following the spacecraft’s Exploration Flight Test-1 in December 2014.

“It allowed us to verify the process would work before we used it on actual flight hardware,” said Mike Hawes, a vice president and Orion program manager at Lockheed.

Lockheed expects to ship the crew module to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida early next year for the final assembly, integration and testing phase.

The agency will conduct EM-1 to evaluate if the Orion spacecraft and the SLS heavy-launch vehicle is safe for use in manned space missions.

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