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Lockheed Martin and NASA Begin Assembly of Orion Crew Module


Orion spacecraft assemble

Engineers from NASA and Lockheed Martin have recently welded the forward bulkhead and tunnel of the Orion crew module which will fly on top of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. This module for the Orion is currently being worked on at an assembly facility in New Orleans. The main structure of the Orion crew module requires seven substantial aluminum pieces. The forward bulkhead, which sits on top of the spacecraft, will feature vital systems such as the parachutes which will deploy during re-entry. The tunnel of the Orion crew module will act as a passageway for astronauts to navigate through between the module and other spacecraft.

"Each of Orion's systems and subsystems is assembled or integrated onto the primary structure, so starting to weld the underlying elements together is a critical first manufacturing step,

said Mark Geyer, the Orion program manager.

"The team has done tremendous work to get to this point and to ensure we have a sound building block for the rest of Orion's systems."

Upon reviewing the manufacturing process of the initial test version of Orion’s main structure for the Exploration Flight Test-1 from last December, Orion’s team has been able to significantly reduce the number of welds required for the crew module. Technicians practiced their new welding process on a full-scaled version of the current spacecraft design, which they often refer to as a pathfinder.

"So for this next spacecraft, seven bigger pieces are coming together, instead of the eighteen for EFT-1, which makes the welding process a little more challenging than before,"

said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin Orion Vice President and program manager.

"We used the pathfinder to make sure we weren't being too ambitious with our design changes. It allowed us to verify the process would work before we used it on actual flight hardware.

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