The Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) Orion has taken her final journey on terra firma, following rollout to the Delta IV-Heavy that is tasked with lofting her on a key test flight next month. The first flight worthy Orion will be mated with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket later this week, ahead of the final readiness reviews to approve the mission.
The EFT-1 Orion was born out of many models of similar appearance, ranging from Ground Test Articles (GTAs) to small scale simulators, all with the purpose of providing the data and know-how that will allow EFT-1 to fly and fly well.
While EFT-1 is a test mission, with no crew on board, this will be a one-off flight that will have to be successful if Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) is not to be delayed further than the current target of September 20, 2018.
A lot is riding on this first Orion to fly in space, ranging from the Critical Design Review (CDR) next year, through to political support for a program that has yet to provide a “realistic” roadmap towards the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars.
EFT-1’s journey from the first welds at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans through to Wednesday’s 22 mile trip to the launch pad has been three years in the making. The mission will last just a few hours.
This first flight, scheduled to launch on the morning of December 4, will see EFT-1 Orion being launched on the ULA Delta IV-H rocket, lofted to 3,600 miles beyond Earth, before returning at a velocity of approximately 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
The mission will be the first and last time an Orion will be carried uphill by the Delta IV-H. Orion’s future is exclusively dedicated to the Space Launch System (SLS) from Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
For EFT-1, Orion was rolled out to SLC-37 at Cape Canaveral, the natural Florida home of the big ULA rocket. Rollout was initially delayed 24 hours due to weather constraints, ahead of a successful journey on Wednesday morning.
The rollout milestone took place after the final round of processing was completed ahead of the big move.
“Assembly of the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFt-1) vehicle is complete and ready for flight,” noted L2’s EFT-1 Section.
“Final assembly stages included installation of shims on two bumpers; installation and inspection of tangential fittings; completion of the Launch Abort System (LAS) thermal umbilical seal; and removal of scaffolding on the vehicle.
“The Orion team successfully performed a purge test to verify the leak rate. The Orion vehicle lifting and weighing was successfully completed.”
With the vehicle now at SLC-37, mating operations will involve the spacecraft being raised 170 feet up into the air and mated to the rocket.
Engineers will then check out the integrated stack by powering up the interfaces between the two vehicles. A Launch Readiness Review (LRR) will then take place, at which point the launch date will be officially set.
However, this flight has a series of reviews, ranging from the completed Test Flight Readiness Review (TFRR), which was held by NASA Flight Test Management Office (FTMO) – the NASA office responsible for support to this mission.
The TFRR was used to verifying readiness of the NASA support to this mission: the MCC, the recovery force and TDRSS/comm support. EFT-1 Lockheed Martin’s “President Review” also took place earlier this month.
According to L2’s EFT-1 section, next up is the Joint Integration Simulation #4, a long simulation covering launch minus 6-hrs to landing.
United Launch Alliance EFT-1 Program Management Readiness Review and Lockheed Martin EFT-1 Readiness Review will take place on November 20, while November 25 will see the ULA Mission Dress Rehearsal conducted.
(Images: Via L2, Lockheed Martin and NASA).
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