The Exploration Flight Test Orion (EFT-1) is into its first month of outfitting operations, aimed at turning what is a shell of a structure into a real spaceship. The outfitting operations at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) will take 17 months, using the bulk of the processing flow timeline ahead of its scheduled launch atop of a Delta IV Heavy in 2014.
It is almost one year since the first welds were conducted on the vehicle at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. By the end of June, the bare bones of the Orion were inside the Operations & Checkout (O&C) building at the Florida spaceport.
There it will remain until just prior to its integration operations with the Delta IV-H that will loft it on a several hour flight to an altitude of more than 3,600 miles, prior to returning home at a speed almost 5,000 miles per hour faster than that endured by the Space Shuttle orbiters.
This test is vital to Orion’s development – most notably its Critical Design Review (CDR), which is currently set for April, 2015 – ahead of its debut mission with the Space Launch System (SLS) in 2017.
As many as 400 members of the Orion team will work on final assembly and integration operations prior to the EFT-1 uncrewed launch in 2014, outfitting the vehicle’s structure to that of the Orion depicted in NASA pictures and videos.
One of the first tasks is to install the windows on the crew module – as much as there won’t be a crew onboard to take in the view.
“The Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) Crew Module pressurized structure was relocated into its processing station within the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) clean area at KSC’s Operations & Checkout building in preparation for installation of the secondary structures,” noted Orion status.
“The crew impact attenuation system (CIAS) bracket drilling operations and installations have been completed and the team has started work on installing the windows on the vehicle as well as the development flight instrumentation sensors. Over the next 17 months, it will undergo outfitting with subsystem components and testing in support of the EFT-1 flight test in 2014.”
Work is also taking place at Lockheed Martin’s Denver facilities, where the Orion Ground Test Article (GTA) successfully completed a series of rigorous acoustic, modal and vibration tests that simulated launch and spaceflight environments this year.
“The Orion team in Denver is in the process of fabricating the EFT-1 heat shield. The composite skin layup, initial and post cure and non-destructive evaluations were completed on schedule,” added the notes.
“The heat shield skeleton assembly tool arrived in July and the team began placing the first heat shield ribs into the tool. Once the metallic ribs are bolted together, the skin will be mated to the structure. The heat shield will provide protection for the crew module as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.”
In addition, a series of EFT-1 Crew Module backshell panels are continuing to be produced via the fabrication process in Denver.
Also located in Denver, the Integrated Test Lab (ITL) is continuing to build the Engineering Development Unit (EDU) hardware and install the flight software deliveries for the EFT-1 Orion’s avionics components.
“The recent delivery of EFT-1 ITL components, including the first release of software build 8.0, EDU Power Distribution Units (PDU) cards C-3 and C-4,” the notes continued.
“Also, Vehicle Management Computer (VMC) EDU and media converter 1 will all enable testing of Crew Module power-up and Guidance Navigation and Control functionality in the EFT-1 flight configuration from now until the fall. The next expected deliveries include EDU PDU C-2 and C-4.”
In addition, integrated Vehicle Avionics Communications Testing is continuing at the Exploration Development Lab in Houston (EDL-H), testing the vehicle command and data handling avionics with Mission Control Center (MCC) Houston to test end-to-end communications functionality.
“These development tests have, for the first time, successfully transmitted on-board telemetry through a simulated Radio Frequency (RF) link, including emulations of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) and White Sands Ground station,” notes added.
“Additionally, encrypted commands were sent from the MCC White Flight Control Room (WFCR) which were properly decrypted and executed in the flight software. Also for the first time, video was streamed from the EDL-H test rig to the JSC Building 8 video processing group to process the data for playback.”
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These tests are in preparation for a higher fidelity test in August, using an S-Band transmitter in the Lockheed Martin Communications and Tracking Integration Lab (CTIL) in Denver, which will demonstrate telemetry, commanding, file transfer and video transfer with the MCC.
A large amount of work is still taking place at MAF, following the departure of the EFT-1 Orion structure, in cooperation with its closely associated NASA center, MSFC. This work mainly relates to the Service Module panel testing efforts.
“The first pair will remain at MSFC and the two test frames will be returned to MAF in New Orleans. The second pair of diamond panels will be installed into the test fixture and be sent to MSFC to start testing.
“The MAF team completed the strain gauge installation and began pressure testing on EFT-1 Service Module inboard wall panel five. All the panels will go through pressure testing following fiber completion, non-destructive evaluations and strain gauge installations.
MAF engineers are also working on the top end of the Delta IV-H/EFT-1 stack, with the Launch Abort System (LAS) flight cone currently being manufactured. The team recently finished fiber placement lay-up on the fiber placement machine and is bagged and ready for cure process in the autoclave at the facility.
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