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Jason DavisFebruary 5, 2016

In Pictures: Orion Assembled and Shipped to Kennedy Space Center

Five months ago today, technicians at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana performed the first assembly weld on the next Orion spacecraft. The capsule's pressure vessel—the part filled with air for astronauts—started out in seven pieces. By mid-January, those pieces were fused into a single, gumdrop-shaped piece of hardware.

Earlier this week, the completed pressure vessel was transported to Kennedy Space Center via NASA's spacecraft-swallowing Super Guppy aircraft. There, it was offloaded and moved into the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, where it will be equipped with subsystems, outer layers and a heat shield ahead of its uncrewed flight to the moon, Exploration Mission 1, in 2018. 

Here's a look back at the assembly and shipping process.

Orion pressure vessel welds

NASA

Orion pressure vessel welds
Orion EM-1 tunnel

NASA

Orion EM-1 tunnel
Orion EM-1 forward bulkhead

NASA

Orion EM-1 forward bulkhead
Orion EM-1 first weld

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Orion EM-1 first weld
The Orion EM-1 tunnel and forward bulkhead were welded together on Sept. 5, 2015.
Orion EM-1 welded tunnel and forward bulkhead

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Orion EM-1 welded tunnel and forward bulkhead
Orion EM-1 cone panel with hatch

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Orion EM-1 cone panel with hatch
Orion EM-1 cone panel with windows

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Orion EM-1 cone panel with windows
Orion EM-1 cone panels

NASA

Orion EM-1 cone panels
All three of the Orion EM-1 cone panels sit welded together at the Michoud Assembly Facility.
Orion EM-1 cone panels welded to forward bulkhead and tunnel

NASA

Orion EM-1 cone panels welded to forward bulkhead and tunnel
Orion EM-1 aft bulkhead

NASA

Orion EM-1 aft bulkhead
Orion EM-1 aft bulkhead and barrel

NASA

Orion EM-1 aft bulkhead and barrel
Orion EM-1 final weld, barrel to cones

NASA

Orion EM-1 final weld, barrel to cones
Welding of the Orion EM-1 pressure vessel was completed on Jan. 15, 2016.
Orion EM-1 completed pressure vessel at Michoud

NASA

Orion EM-1 completed pressure vessel at Michoud
Super Guppy arrives in New Orleans to pick up Orion EM-1

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Super Guppy arrives in New Orleans to pick up Orion EM-1
On Feb. 1, 2016, NASA's Super Guppy aircraft ferried the Orion EM-1 spacecraft from New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Orion EM-1 loaded onto Super Guppy

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Orion EM-1 loaded onto Super Guppy
Super Guppy departs New Orleans with Orion EM-1

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Super Guppy departs New Orleans with Orion EM-1
Orion EM-1 unpacked at KSC

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Orion EM-1 unpacked at KSC
After flying from New Orleans via the Super Guppy aircraft, the Orion EM-1 spacecraft is unpacked at Kennedy Space Center.
Orion EM-1 at Kennedy Space Center Operations and Checkout Facility

NASA / Radislav Sinyak

Orion EM-1 at Kennedy Space Center Operations and Checkout Facility

Read more: Orion

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Jason Davis

Journalist and Digital Editor for The Planetary Society
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