Category Archives: Orion

Heat Shield for Artemis

Orion is getting closer to flight. The heat shield is ready for Avocoat,

Caption from NASA:

The state-of-the-art heat shield, measuring roughly 16 feet in diameter, which will protect astronauts upon re-entry on the second mission of Artemis, arrived this week at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for assembly and integration with the Orion crew module. Artemis 2, the first crewed mission in the series of missions to the Moon and on to Mars, will confirm all of the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed in the actual environment of deep space with astronauts aboard.

The large piece of flight hardware arrived from Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility near Denver aboard the NASA Super Guppy aircraft on July 9 and was transported to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout facility high bay where work will take place on July 10.  Currently, the heat shield is a base titanium truss structure or skeleton. Over the next several months, technicians will apply Avcoat, an ablative material that will provide the thermal protection.

Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

ESA to the Moon

ESA: The European Service Module-2 (ESM-2) is somewhat like the portal it appears to be in this image. By providing power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, it will transport humans back to the Moon, roughly fifty years after humankind first landed on its surface.

In assembly at Airbus in Bremen, ESM-2 is the engine of the Orion spacecraft that will fly its second mission and first with a crew. The mission is called Artemis 2 and is set for launch in 2022.

Every wire seen in this structure must be correctly connected and configured to ensure the systems providing power, propulsion, oxygen and heat get the spacecraft and its crew of four safely around the Moon and back.

Partially visible at the bottom of the Service Module are the auxiliary thrusters that have recently been installed. These along with two other types of engines will get Orion to its destination.

The main engine is a repurposed Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System engine that has flown in space before. The eight auxiliary thrusters come in as backup to this main engine and to provide orbit corrections.

Lastly, 24 smaller engines grouped into six pods provide attitude control. In fixed positions, they can be fired individually as needed to move the spacecraft in different directions and rotate it into any position.

ESM-2 is expected to be completed and delivered to NASA in 2020.

The first European Service Module arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in October 2018. It has since been mated with the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module. The trio are undergoing thermal and balance testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Facility in Ohio this summer.

The recent successful Launch Abort Test that proved the spacecraft’s system can pull astronauts to safety in the event of a launch anomaly has marked another major milestone for Orion’s first exploratory mission.

Artemis 1 will qualify the spacecraft’s performance. Orion will make a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself 70 000 km beyond the Moon, almost half a million km from Earth – farther than any human has ever travelled.

On its return journey, Orion will do another flyby of the Moon before heading back to Earth.

The total trip will take around 20 days, ending with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean without the European Service Module – it separates and burns up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

Artemis 2 will follow a similar flight path with a crew of four astronauts.

The European Service Module is built by Airbus, with smaller components coming from suppliers all over Europe, making the mission a truly international endeavour.

Orion is the first collaboration between ESA and NASA on a spacecraft that will take humans farther into space.In addition to returning humans to the moon, Orion will be instrumental to building the Gateway, a staging post to be located in lunar orbit that will allow humans to go deeper into space.

ESA is committed to working with partners globally to achieve its exciting vision of human and robotic exploration targeting the Moon and Mars.

Image: Aribus

Orion Passes Acoustic Tests

NASA: Orion’s service module for NASA’s Artemis 1 mission completed acoustic testing inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. The tests were the latest step in preparing for the agency’s first uncrewed flight test of Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Teams completed the test May 25, 2019, and technicians will analyze the data collected during the tests to check for flaws uncovered by the acoustic environment. During the testing, engineers secured the service module inside the test cell and then attached microphones, strain gauges and accelerometers to it. They conducted a series of five tests, with acoustic levels ranging from 128 to 140 decibels – as loud as a jet engine during takeoff.

Artemis 1 will be the first mission launching Orion on the SLS rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B. The mission will take Orion thousands of miles past the Moon on an approximately three-week test flight. Orion will return to Earth and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, where it will be retrieved and returned to Kennedy.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Orion Test Capsule Recovery

Very nice picture and a fun albeit stressful training session.

NASA: On Nov. 1, 2018, the USS John P. Murtha recovered the test version of the Orion capsule at sunset in the Pacific Ocean. The Underway Recovery Test-7 (URT-7) is one in a series of tests that the Exploration Ground Systems Recovery Team, along with the U.S. Navy, are conducting to validate procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft after it splashes down following deep space exploration missions. Orion will have the capability to sustain the crew during space travel, provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities, and emergency abort.

Photo edited by NASA/Ron Beard, Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

The Airbus Team

NASA – The Airbus team poses with the European Service Module during preparations for shipment to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The module is scheduled to depart Germany on November 5, arriving at Kennedy on November 6. For the first time, NASA will use a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft, extending the international cooperation of the International Space Station into deep space.

The European Service Module is a unique collaboration across space agencies and industry including ESA’s prime contractor, Airbus, and 10 European countries. The completion of service module work in Europe and shipment to Kennedy signifies a major milestone toward NASA’s human deep space exploration missions.

On Friday, Nov. 16, an event at Kennedy Space Center and live on NASA Television will mark the module’s arrival. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Jan Wörner, as well as other senior leaders from NASA and ESA will discuss the international cooperation needed to send humans to the Moon and Mars.

Image Credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak

Testing the RS-25 Engine

An impressive amount of power developed as the RS-25 engine is hot-fired on 19 October. This engine has a great history of reliability in the NASA shuttle program and will power the new Space Launch System.

In October of 2018 four of these engines will power the first flight test of SLS with Orion which will carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond the moon, deeper than any human-rated spacecraft has gone, to test the performance of the integrated system.

This test took place at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi

Super Guppy Delivers

The Super Guppy, an aptly named NASA cargo plane might look unwieldy but don’t let looks fool you; this plane can deliver large items.

The image here for example shows the cargo bay of the plane and a new heat shield being unloaded at Kennedy Space Center (Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis).


The heat shield will protect the new Orion spacecraft from the intense heat of re-entry. The heat-shield, built by Lockheed Martin in Colorado will withstand temperatures of 2,760 C / 5,000 F. The 5 meter / 16.5 ft diameter heat-shield plus crating fits easily inside the Guppy.

Here’s a video of the Super Guppy in action.

Good Luck Orion

NASA TV played this video Trial by Fire earlier this morning and shows an overview of today’s flight. We’ll see how to goes a little later.


Launch is still a go. Weather isn’t a problem so far. There was one wind gust peak near the top end of the launch criteria and has not recurred. The odds due to weather is 70 percent.

Live video for the launch is down the page in the previous post.

Update: New liftoff time is 07:05 EST / 12:05 UT on Friday 05 December 2014