First Space Launch System 'Pathfinder' Hardware Nearing Completion
Engineers using a state-of-the-art vertical welding tool at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., move a "pathfinder" version of the adapter design that will be used on test flights of the Orion spacecraft and NASA's Space Launch System. The adapter will eventually connect the Orion spacecraft to the SLS. It will be flight tested on Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014, when it will be used to mate Orion to a Delta IV heavy-lift rocket. The term "pathfinder" refers to an early version of the hardware that is not intended to fly, but to prove the concept and feasibility of manufacturing the design. This pathfinder is 18 feet across and 5 feet tall and will be strengthened in a few weeks when specially machined end rings -- also built at the Marshall Center -- are welded to it.
The SLS will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft and other payloads beyond low Earth orbit, providing an entirely new capability for human exploration. The Marshall Center manages the SLS Program for the agency and works closely with the Orion program office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, which manage the operations and launch facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmet Given
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