NASA is one step closer to going back into deep space for the first time in decades.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center unveiled the Orion Stage Adapter Tuesday. The hardware will be latest addition to the new Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS is expected to be the most powerful rocket ever built. NASA will use the robust rocket to launch the Orion Spacecraft to the moon and beyond.
The adapter connects the Orion vessel carrying astronauts [at the top] to the large rocket engines at the bottom. The hardware itself is 18 feet in diameter and five feet tall. A large piece of equipment in its own right, but it pales in comparison to the massive 322 feet tall rocket the adapter will be a part of once completely assembled.
“You’re talking about a relatively insignificant 5 feet of that 322, but it’s a very critical piece of hardware for this vehicle,” said Andy Schorr, NASA Deputy Manager of the Spacecraft Payload Integration and Evolution Office.
Inside the adapter, engineers installed 13 Cube Satellites that will ride along for the mission. The shoebox sized special equipment will deploy on unique missions [once the Orion separates]; including landing on the moon to look for signs of water vapors or ice, exploring a passing asteroid and investigating radiation in deep space.
“There’s a lot of great science that’s going on with the small CubeSat that would not have been capable 3-4 years ago," said Paul Bookout, NASA Secondary Payload Integration Manager for EM-1 .
From paper to final product, it took the team of more than 200 at Marshall Space Flight Center 20 months to build the Orion Stage Adapter.
”What’s unique about this hardware is it was actually designed and built here in North Alabama, using parts from various places, but primarily built here. So it’s a source of great pride for the team that’s been working hard on this for several years now," said Brent Gaddes, NASA Lead for the Orion Space Adapter. Gaddes also told WAAY 31 those who worked on the adapter signed their names inside, leaving their mark in history.
The adapter will be transported to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, aboard the NASA Super Guppy, at the end of February .
The hardware will officially enter deep space on the first ever SLS launch December 2019.