NASA Orion Crew Spacecraft Moved to VAB for Stacking on SLS Artemis 1 Moon Rocket at KSC: Photos

NASA Orion Crew Capsule Moved to VAB for Stacking on SLS Artemis 1 Moon Rocket at KSC: Photos
NASA’s Orion spacecraft capsule on the move as it exits the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) on Oct. 18, 2021 for move to Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and stacking on top of Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for launch on the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon and back from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Credit: NASA

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  NASA’s Orion crew spacecraft was moved this week to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for stacking on top of the Space Launch System (SLS) mega rocket destined for launching the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon as soon as early 2022 from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

Orion’s move started Monday evening, Oct. 18 exiting the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) around 6 p.m. EDT standing upright and gloriously exposed atop a mobile transporter – sporting the energetic logo ‘We Are Going’ – and was completed overnight Tuesday early morning, Oct. 19 with arrival at the VAB around 5 a.m. EDT.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft before exiting the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) on Oct. 18, 2021 for move to Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and stacking on top of Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for launch on the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon and back from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Credit: NASA

Since the Orion spacecraft is comprised of the Crew Module built by Lockheed Martin for NASA and the Service Module built by ESA (European Space Agency) it displays the logos of both space agency’s

“Caution: Spacecraft Approaching. @NASA_Orion is on the move! The spacecraft is currently being transported from the Launch Abort System Facility to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building where it’ll be mated with the @NASA_SLS rocket,” NASA KSC tweeted.

Completion of stacking of Orion on SLS is scheduled for later this week in the VAB. See upcoming story

Liftoff of the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission is slated for early 2022 from Launch Complex 39B at NASA KSC on the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to test the SLS heavy lift mega rocket and Orion crew capsule as an integrated system prior to crewed flights to the Moon starting with Artemis 2.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft capsule on the move as it exits the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) on Oct. 18, 2021 for move to Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and stacking on top of Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for launch on the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon and back from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Credit: NASA

SLS is the most powerful rocket the world has ever seen generating some 8.8 million pounds of liftoff thrust at ignition – about 15% more powerful than NASA’s legendary Saturn V that hurled the first humans to land on the Moon back in 1969 on the Apollo 11 moon landing mission.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft capsule on the move as it exits the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) on Oct. 18, 2021 for move to Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and stacking on top of Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for launch on the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon and back from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Credit: NASA

Watch this cool NASA KSC video of Orion on the move from the LASF to the VAB early this week on Oct. 18/19, 2021

Orion arrived at the entrance to the VAB transfer aisle shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, after traveling approximately 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the LASF.

“The Orion spacecraft has arrived at the Vehicle Assembly Building! It’ll soon be integrated with @NASA_SLS, completing assembly of the rocket for the #Artemis I mission,” NASA KSC tweeted.

The Orion move only took place after all SLS components required to receive it were stacked in VAB High Bay 3 and after completion of the ‘modal’ resonance testing campaign.

NASA’s first 212 foot tall core stage for the Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket was raised vertical inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and stacked beside the two twin 177 foot tall solid rocket boosters atop the Mobile Launch Platform at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida for the Artemis 1 mission. Credit: NASA.

“On future missions, Orion will carry astronauts to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel, and provide safe entry from deep space return velocities on Artemis missions,” NASA officials say.

“NASA is working with a diverse group of industry and international partners to make this next-generation spacecraft a reality.”

Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space center install the fourth and final ogive fairing for Orion’s launch abort system (LAS) inside the Launch Abort System Facility on Sept. 7, 2021. The ogives are protective panels that will shield the crew module from the severe vibrations and sounds it will experience during launch. Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Approximately 1,900 suppliers across the U.S. and Europe provide components for Orion.

Lockheed Martin is the spacecraft’s prime contractor, and ESA (European Space Agency) oversees the development of Orion’s service module.

The Artemis 1 Orion crew capsule was manufactured inside NASA’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building (O & C) at KSC.

 

 

NASA Orion Artemis 1 crew capsule and ESM service module is assembly complete in Jan. 2021 during visit to NASA Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Media including Ken Kremer and Jean Wright for Space UpClose were invited for an up close visit to see and photograph Orion after assembly of the NASA Crew Module & ESA Service Module was completed inside the O & C earlier this year in January 2021.

NASA Orion Artemis 1 crew capsule and ESM service module is assembly complete in Jan. 2021 during visit to NASA Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Next it was moved to the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) where teams at KSC installed  Orion’s launch abort system (LAS) and then methodically installed all four ogive fairing.

The fourth and final ogive fairing was attached to Orion on Sept. 7, 2021.

The ogives are protective panels that will shield the Orion crew module from the severe vibrations and sounds it will experience during launch.

SLS serves as the backbone of the Artemis program and the nation’s future deep space exploration missions.

The SLS core stage measures 212 feet tall and 27.6 feet in diameter.

Overall SLS stands 322 feet (98 meters) tall and weighs 5.75 million pounds

It is equipped with four Aerojet-Rocketdyne built RS-25 engines fueled by over 730,000 gallons of cryogenic super cold LOX (liquid oxygen) and LH2 (liquid hydrogen) propellants to generate some 2 million pounds of liftoff thrust to help power the SLS rocket at launch.

SLS was built by prime contractor Boeing at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

The RS-25 engines are attached to the base of the core stage and are recycled from the Space Shuttle where they were reused and reflown numerous times.

UpClose look at 4 Aerojet-Rocketdyne RS-25 engines at base of 1st SLS core stage after offloading from the Pegasus Barge on April 29, 2021, after arriving at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida and transported to VAB for integration and stacking with solid rocket boosters atop mobile launcher. For Artemis 1 launch to the Moon NET late 2021. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Previously known as the Space Shuttle Main Engine, or SSME, they have been refurbished and upgraded in numerous ways including with a new ‘brain controller’ and can fire at 109% thrust.

This first SLS core stage arrived on NASA’s Pegasus barge April 27 and was then rolled off the barge and into VAB  two days later on April 29 for the extensive stacking and preparatory operations for launch on the history making Artemis 1 mission to deliver NASA’s Orion deep space human rated capsule to the Moon.

 

 

Artemis I Core Stage Offload to VAB. 1st 212-foot long Space Launch System (SLS) core stage was offloaded from the Pegasus Barge on April 29, 2021, after arriving at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida and sailing past Countdown Clock and US Flag in turn basin wharf for transport to VAB. Integration with solid rocket boosters atop mobile launcher upcoming. Destined for the Artemis 1 launch to the Moon carrying NASA’s human rated Orion deep space capsule NET late 2021. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The overall stacking process began on June 11 when technicians with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems team lifted the 21 story core stage by first hoisting it horizontal off the transporter inside the VAB transfer aisle and then rotated it vertical.

Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

This NASA graphic illustrates the stacking process.

Infographic artwork explains stacking of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on its path to the pad for Artemis I. NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and Jacobs teams will stack the different elements of the SLS rocket on top of the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. The VAB and mobile launcher have been specially outfitted to accommodate SLS and Orion. Once fully assembled, the upgraded crawler-transporter will carry the skyscraper-sized duo to the launch pad for NASA’s next-generation Moon missions. Credit: NASA

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Artemis, SLS, Orion and NASA missions, Lucy Asteroid mission, Blue Origin and Space Tourism, SpaceX Cargo and Crew Dragons, SpaceX  Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2 & 3, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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1st 212-foot long Space Launch System (SLS) core stage was offloaded from the Pegasus Barge on April 29, 2021, after arriving at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida for transport to VAB. Integration with solid rocket boosters atop mobile launcher upcoming inside VAB. Destined for the Artemis 1 launch to the Moon carrying NASA’s human rated Orion deep space capsule NET late 2021. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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