NASA Completes Welding on Lunar Orion EM-1 Pressure Vessel Launching in 2018

Welding together of Orion EM-1 pressure vessel was completed on Jan. 13, 2016 at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The pressure vessel is the primary structure of the Orion spacecraft destined for human missions to deep space and Mars.  Credits: NASA

In a major step towards flight, engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have finished welding together the pressure vessel for the first Lunar Orion crew module that will blastoff in 2018 atop the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.The 2018 launch of NASA’s Orion on an unpiloted flight dubbed Exploration Mission, or EM-1, counts as the first joint flight of SLS and Orion, and the first flight of a human rated spacecraft to deep space since the Apollo Moon landing era ended more than 4 decades ago.Orion is designed to send astronauts deeper into space than ever before, including missions to the Moon, asteroids and the Red Planet.“We’ve started off the year with a key step in our process to get ready for Exploration Mission-1, when together Orion and SLS will travel farther than a spacecraft built for humans has ever traveled,” said Mike Sarafin, Exploration Mission-1 manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a statement.“This brings us closer to our goal of testing our deep space exploration systems in the proving ground of lunar space before we begin sending astronauts days to weeks from Earth.”The olive green colored pressure vessel is the spacecraft’s underlying structure on which all of the spacecraft’s systems and subsystems such built and integrated.These systems include thermal protection, propulsion, avionics, computers, plumbing, electrical, life support, parachutes and much more.The pressure vessel is comprised of seven large aluminum pieces that Michoud technicians began welding together in September 2015 using a highly precise state-of-the-art process called friction-stir welding.The friction-stir welding work to assemble the primary structure of NASA’s maiden Lunar Orion capsule was just finished last week on Jan. 13.“Friction-stir welding produces incredibly strong bonds by transforming metals from a solid into a plastic-like state, and then using a rotating pin —> Read More