Lockheed Martin reported its technicians at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans completed construction of the pressure vessel for the Orion Exploration Mission-2 spacecraft. The pressure vessel is a capsule that will carry four astronauts into space during the Orion EM-2’s planned, August 2021 mission into space.
Lockheed is the prime contractor for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, a spacecraft designed for long-duration, human-rated deep space exploration. It will transport humans to interplanetary destinations beyond low Earth orbit, such as the moon and eventually Mars, and return them to Earth safely.
After the assembly was complete, the capsule was trucked from New Orleans to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There, Lockheed Martin technicians will begin assembly and integration on the EM-2 crew module.
Designed to withstand the conditions and demands of deep space travel, while keeping the crew safe and productive, the pressure vessel consists of seven large, machined aluminum-alloy pieces that are welded together into a capsule structure that is strong, but lightweight and air-tight.
The EM-2 mission will be the first manned-mission for the Orion, the multi-purpose interplanetary spacecraft for exploration and transportation beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). An intial exploratory space mission, EM-1, is scheduled for 2019.
"It's great to see the EM-2 capsule arrive just as we are completing the final assembly of the EM-1 crew module," said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin vice president and program manager for Orion. "We've learned a lot building the previous pressure vessels and spacecraft and the EM-2 spacecraft will be the most capable, cost-effective and efficient one we've built."