July 22, 2019: Construction of Orion spacecraft for Artemis-1 flight completed

Lockheed Martin says that it has completed the final assembly phase of the first full Orion spacecraft. At a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, US Vice President Mike Pence made the public announcement in front of the spacecraft at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

In addition to Pence, Saturday's ceremony included such dignitaries as Lockheed Martin's President, Chairman and CEO Marillyn Hewson, NASA's Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Kennedy Space Center's Director Robert Cabana, and Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis. The announcement comes a week after the crew capsule module and the service module built by ESA were stacked and then thoroughly integrated and tested.

The completion comes almost 11 months after the inner capsule or pressure vessel of the Orion Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) spacecraft, now called Artemis-1, arrived at Kennedy for final assembly. This included installation of major spacecraft systems, including avionic computers, harnesses, propulsion systems, a 16-ft (5-m) polymer heat shield, 11 parachutes, and the exterior hull. It was then bolted to the service module and the umbilicals connected.

According to Lockheed, the capsule and the service module were stacked in the same Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) cell where the Apollo spacecraft were assembled. Orion is scheduled to power up in September and will then be shipped to NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio for environmental testing in a large thermal vacuum chamber, which will be followed by electromagnetic testing.

If all goes well, the spacecraft will return to the space center by the end of the year for final preparations before the launch of Artemis-1 next year. This will be an unmanned mission that will circumnavigate the Moon as a final certification test before the manned Artemis-2 mission scheduled for 2022.

"Orion is a new class of spaceship, uniquely designed for long-duration deep space flight that will return astronauts to the Moon and eventually take the first humans to Mars, and bring them all back safely." says Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. "Orion will accelerate scientific discovery of our solar system and will be the cornerstone of the defining space achievement of this era."

Source: Lockheed Martin