Spring has sprung in the northern hemisphere, and while springtime brings on the cleaning season at home, it is assembly time for Orion.

Testing and installation work for NASA’s Orion spacecraft continues without pause at the operations and checkout building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

The cone of the spacecraft adapter was installed on 15 April. This adapter is an essential element to connect the European Service Module and Orion to the world’s largest rocket, NASA’s Space Launch Systems. The cone houses the separation system. After the final upper stage burn, the mechanism is fired and it releases Orion to continue on its path to the Moon.

On the same day, the nozzle of the main OMS-E engine was installed, and its movement will be closely monitored during the gimbal test this week. The bell-shaped nozzle allows extremely hot gas to escape during ignition, causing the gases resulting from combustion to expand and exit the nozzle at speeds of thousands of kilometres per hour. All that fast-moving steam creates the thrust that propels the rocket from Earth.

Orion teams at at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after installating the engine nozzle on the European Service Module. Credits: NASA

The Solar Array Wings are being equipped with four cameras – one per solar array – to record the lunar trip once the spacecraft deploys the seven metre arrays en route to the Moon.

The next step is to turn up the volume. Technicians will simulate the sound levels that occur at launch during the direct-field acoustic testing (D-FAT) sessions for the solar arrays and the European Service Module. Between 23 April to 10 May, these elements will be subjected to the extreme noises of a simulated rocket launch surrounded by large speakers. Every rocket that lifts a spacecraft into orbit produces vibrations and loud noise that will shake the spacecraft.

Work between ESA, Airbus and Lockheed Martin is running according to schedule towards the next milestone – the mating of Orion’s service and crew modules. The European Service Module that will propel the spacecraft will move on 29 May to a different workstation at the Kennedy Space Center’s Operations and Checkout building.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is expected to be fully assembled by June. Time for launch draws near. Check out our infographics and guess where we are on the journey to the Moon.

Orion: The journey. Credits: ESA–K. Oldenburg