NASA has announced that the Orion spacecraft used for the Artemis I mission has completed its time in the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building. The spaceship was hoisted from the stand in that building where it was outfitted with components, and systems were tested to ensure it was mission ready. With assembly complete, the spacecraft has been moved to the NASA Exploration Ground Systems team responsible for processing the Orion spacecraft for its launch later this year.
This stage marks the formal transfer of ownership from Lockheed Martin as it moves from factory assembly into processing for the flight stage. NASA says the transition is part of a series of time-sensitive operations that marks increasing confidence in the launch date this year. This has been a long process, with the initial Lockheed Martin assembly of Orion’s underlying aluminum structure kicking off at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans back in 2015.
Orion has been residing at the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout facility since 2016, where engineers outfitted the spacecraft with the systems needed for space operations. The spaceship has gone through many key milestones in the program at that facility, ranging from being fitted with its heatshield to protect the crew module for atmospheric reentry to powering the spacecraft systems for the first time.
Currently, Orion is integrated with the European-built service module that will power, propel, and provide thermal control, air, and water for the spacecraft. This mission marks the first time NASA has used a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft. Previously, the combined spacecraft stack was sent to the John H. Glenn Research Center at the Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio.
During its time at the facility, it underwent three months of testing in the extreme temperature and electromagnetic environment it will endure in space. NASA intends to move the spacecraft again on January 16 to the spaceport’s Operations & Checkout Building Multi-Payload Processing facility. It will be placed on a stand at the facility providing 360-degree access, and the transportation cover will be removed. With the cover removed, fuel lines and fluid ground support equipment panels will be accessed to load commodities into the crew and service modules.