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NASA Teams Prepare Moon Rocket-to-Spacecraft Connector for Assembly
Orion Stage Adapter for Artemis II readies for shipment to Kennedy Space Center
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NASA Teams Prepare Moon Rocket-to-Spacecraft Connector for Assembly
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Dec 12, 2023

The Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's super-heavy lift rocket designated for the Artemis II mission, is rapidly approaching a significant milestone. Teams at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are finalizing preparations on a critical component of the SLS - the Orion stage adapter. This component serves as the crucial link between NASA's Orion spacecraft and the rocket's interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS).

Recently, these teams successfully rotated the Orion stage adapter, a ring structure essential for the Artemis II mission, in anticipation of the installation of its diaphragm. This maneuver, completed on November 30, represents one of the final steps before the adapter is shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The upcoming shipment, scheduled for 2024, will be carried out by NASA's Super Guppy cargo aircraft, a testimony to the adapter's significant size and importance.

Brent Gaddes, who leads the Orion stage adapter team in the Spacecraft/Payload Integration and Evolution Office for the SLS Program at Marshall, explained the adapter's function. "The diaphragm is a composite, dome-shaped structure that isolates the volume above the ICPS from that below Orion," said Gaddes. He emphasized its critical role as a barrier, preventing the accumulation of potentially hazardous hydrogen gas from the rocket's propellant tanks beneath the Orion spacecraft and its crew before and during launch.

This component's dimensions are noteworthy, standing at five feet tall and weighing 1,800 pounds. Despite being the smallest major element of the SLS rocket, its role is indispensable for the mission's success. The SLS, known for its immense thrust power of over 8.8 million pounds, will propel four Artemis astronauts inside the Orion spacecraft on a journey around the Moon. The adapter, fully manufactured by the engineering teams at Marshall, is a testament to the meticulous work and precision required for space exploration.

The Artemis II mission, set to be the first crewed mission of the Artemis program, marks a significant step in NASA's long-term goals for lunar exploration and beyond. The preparation of the Orion stage adapter is not just a technical achievement but a symbol of the progress being made in human spaceflight and exploration. As the Artemis program progresses, each component, no matter how small, plays a pivotal role in the collective effort to return humans to the Moon and lay the groundwork for future endeavors in deep space exploration.

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