NASA Installs Largest Ever Heat Shield on Orion Spacecraft

Orion spacecraft gets heatshield 1 photo
Photo: NASA
Aside from SpaceX and Blue Origin, NASA itself is working on a spaccraft capable of taking humans to space and bringing them back safely. Called Orion, the capsule is currently being assembled at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Starting July, NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers began fitting the heat shield onto the spacecraft, thus moving closer to the completion of the build. This month, the heat shield was secured with 68 bolts to the bottom of the crew module.

The heat shield is 16.5 feet in diameter, the largest such component developed for crewed capsules. It is made of a titanium truss covered with a composite substrate and layers of carbon fiber material.

The shield will act as a barrier between the interior of the capsule and the extreme temperatures that occur during a spacecraft’s reentry into the atmosphere.

In June 2020, the Orion spacecraft will depart Earth onboard the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever built. It will be unmanned and tested for three weeks in space, as it travels around the Moon and back. This adventure is called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).

"Installation of the EM-1 crew module heat shield is a significant milestone representing the beginning of closing out the crew module assembly," said in a statement Jules Schneider, Lockheed Martin Orion senior manager.

"When the heat shield is installed, access to components becomes more difficult, and in some cases, there is no more access. So by installing the heat shield, you are declaring that a certain percentage of the spacecraft is finished."

After completing the tests, the Orion will be capable of carrying a crew of four astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit, including the Moon and on to Mars. It is equipped with power, communications and life support systems to make it self-sufficient for long periods of time.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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