To the Moon: NASA Makes Final Touches to Connect Orion to Space Launch System Rocket

Orion at KSC - Courtesy NASA

Edited by DONNA BALANCIA

NASA Technicians at Kennedy Space Center are installing an adapter to connect the Orion spacecraft to its Space Launch System rocket for the Artemis mission around the Moon.

It’s one of the last hardware operations for Orion, which is housed inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. Next, the Orion will be integrated with the Space Launch System rocket, a super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle, which has been under development by NASA since its announcement in 2011. 

The spacecraft adapter cone, which can be seen at the bottom of the stack pictured above, connects to the bottom of Orion’s service module and will later join another adapter connected to the top of the rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS).

During the process to install the cone on Orion, the spacecraft is lifted out of the Final Assembly and Systems Testing and placed into the Super Station support fixture.

During flight, the SLS rocket will separate in multiple stages as it pushes Orion into deep space. As Orion moves towards the Moon the spacecraft will separate from the ICPS and adapter cone using pyrotechnics and springs.

Next up before stacking Orion on the rocket, technicians will install coverings to protect fluid lines and electrical components on the crew module adapter that connects Orion to the service module. Workers also will install the solar array wings that will provide Orion with power, spacecraft adapter jettison fairings that enclose the service module for launch, and the forward bay cover that protects the parachute system

Orion will fly on the agency’s Artemis I mission – the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon that will lead to human exploration of Mars. Through the Artemis program, NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.

Read more about Space Launch System, NASA’s most powerful deep space exploration vehicle here.