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From Apollo to Orion: NASA's O & C Building Has New Mission

The Operation and Control or "O & C" building located at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been transformed so as to accomodate NASA's Orion spacecraft as well as to modernize the historic structure. Photo Credit: Jeffrey J. Soulliere

After undergoing a $55 million renovation, the Apollo-era Operation & Checkout (O & C) Building, located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) industrial area, has been transformed into a state-of the-art green assembly multi-purpose-use facility. The renovations are part of a larger effort to not just prepare the space center for crewed deep-space missions, but to modernize many of the historic structures at KSC.

“A lot of the things we did to this building were designed to make it more flexible,” said Jim Kemp, director for Lockheed Martin’s Orion Assembly Testing and Launch Operations.

Lockheed-Martin's Jim Kemp spoke with members of the media regarding the upgrades that have been made to NASA's O & C building so that the structure can process the Orion spacecraft. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

Each and every work station in the O & C rides on wheels or on air bearings so they can be moved at will. The power and testing connections are located under the floor in a race way that is easily assessable.

The O & C building’s design is replete with fixed structures that cannot be removed; this has proved to be a challenge to the refurbishment effort. The only remaining monument in the building is the explosion-proof pressure test room. With steel doors and four foot thick concrete walls – this room will be incorporated into Lockheed-Martin’s test plans.

“We need to have the supply chain close to the assembly plant, one of the reasons for this is that damage to critical components frequently occurs during transportation,” Kemp said.

Lockheed-Martin has leased a portion of the building to United Space Alliance (USA) as a sub-contractor to fabricate Orion’s wiring harnesses on site to help avoid this problem.

NASA has worked to rennovate many of the structures at Kennedy Space Center to support the space agency's new human space flight initiatives. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

On the main floor of this 70,000 square building sits the reason for all of this attention, the Orion ground test article capsule. Orion is positioned between two portable HEPA walls on its test stand and is the obvious center of much attention as it is being used to prepare the structure for the flight article of the spacecraft.

The unit currently residing in the O & C building is used to test ground equipment as well as to the test fit and function of different systems and facilities.

The ground test article won’t remain in the O & C building for long however. It will soon be replaced by the flight test article – the version of the spacecraft that will be used on the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission which is currently scheduled to take place in 2014.

The ground test version of the Orion is used to ensure that components, facilities and other elements that are to be used with actual flight hardware will work with actual spacecraft are processed through Kennedy Space Center. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

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