Spaceflight Insider

NASA’s EM-1 Orion spacecraft ready to ship to Florida

Recently completed EM-1 Orion pressure vessel at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility ( MAF) n New Orleans, La. Photo Credit: Scott Johnson / SpaceFlight Insider

The recently completed EM-1 Orion pressure vessel at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, La. Photo Credit: Scott Johnson / SpaceFlight Insider

NEW ORLEANS, La. — On Tuesday, Jan. 26, NASA and Lockheed Martin hosted members of the media at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), to view the recently completed Exploration Mission One (EM-1) Orion pressure vessel – the underlying structure on which all of the spacecraft’s systems and subsystems will be built and integrated.

The EFT-1 Orion pressure vessel wrapped-up and ready for shipment to KSC. Photo Credit: NASA

The EFT-1 Orion pressure vessel wrapped-up and ready for shipment to KSC. Photo Credit: NASA

Welding of the pressure vessel’s seven aluminum pieces began in September and was completed on January 13, using a state-of-art procedure known as friction-stir welding which bonds the edges of the aluminum pieces together by temporarily converting the material into a plastic-like state.

On Feb. 1, the pressure vessel will be shipped to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) via NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft. Arrival at KSC is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. (EST).

Upon arriving at KSC, the vessel will undergo tests to ensure its structural integrity. It will then be outfitted with the spacecraft’s systems/subsystems, processed, and later integrated with its launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS).

“It’s a special day for all of us,” said Mark Kirasich, NASA Orion program manager. “[EM-1] . . . will be the flight that we fly in less than three years from now, at the end of 2018, and we will be launched on top of the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, . . . [and it] will propel Orion on a mission toward the Moon . . . [for] a very thorough and rigorous checkout of all the systems in the deep-space environment.”

This is “the first human-rated capsule that’s going to go out into deep space in over forty years,” added Todd May, acting director of the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), which oversees MAF. It’s a “fun day whenever we’re shipping hardware out the door”.

As mentioned above, the Orion EM-1 mission, an uncrewed flight around the Moon, will take place in late 2018. The first crewed Orion flight, Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2), is scheduled to take place no earlier than 2021 and no later than 2023.


Scott earned both a Bachelor's Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first remembers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for dynamic testing. More recently, in 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the long-neglected Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked for several years maintaining exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware. Scott attended the STS - 110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, Atlas V MSL and Delta IV NROL-15 launches. More recently, he covered the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 and MAVEN launches, along with the Antares ORB-1, SpaceX CRS-3, and Orion EFT-1 launches.

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