June 28th, 2023
With some 18 months until the crewed Artemis 2 mission, teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida have completed the installation of the Orion spacecraft’s heat shield.
The 16.5-foot (5-meter) heat shield is designed to protect the Orion capsule and its four crew members from the heat of reentry — nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 degrees Celsius) — after returning from the vicinity of the Moon. According to NASA, conditions inside the vehicle during this time are expected to remain in the mid-70s Fahrenheit (lower 20s Celsius).
Later this summer the agency expects technicians to outfit the capsule with some of its external panels ahead of acoustic testing to ensure the spacecraft can withstand vibrations created during launch, in-flight events as well as reentry and landing. NASA says the capsule will be attached to its service module after acoustic testing.
The European-built service module itself is undergoing final checkouts at KSC, having completed its acoustic testing in May. The service module includes fuel, propulsion, power and life support commodities for astronauts.
Aboard the 10-day Artemis 2 flyby mission will be NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Koch as well as Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen. Liftoff atop a Space Launch System rocket is expected to happen as early as November 2024.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.