HUNTSVILLE, Ala — The elements for the Orion spacecraft that will conduct the Exploration Flight Test 1 mission are coming together. As a photographer that shoots for AmericaSpace, I decided to visit NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center, located in Huntsville, Ala., and I was treated to a tour of the space agency’s facilities there and compiled the following photographic feature.
I was shown the new tank welding machine. Although no welding took place the day of this tour, segments were lifted into the individual welding jigs. The components shown here will be part of the Orion spacecraft’s interstage.
NASA has tapped United Launch Alliance’s powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket to send Orion on its unmanned, maiden flight. If all goes according to plan, the rocket will send the Orion spacecraft some 3,600 miles away from the Earth. It will then return home—at 20,000 miles per hour—providing the ultimate test of Orion’s heat shield.
After this mission is completed, NASA will amp things up—a lot. The following mission will be the Exploration Mission 1, and this will take place atop NASA’s new heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System, or “SLS.”