WASHINGTON, July 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA officials will visit Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington, Mass., Wednesday, July 17, to view progress being made on the heat shield for the agency's Orion spacecraft.
Orion will launch on Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) next year. The flight will evaluate the design and performance of the spacecraft that will send humans on future missions to an asteroid and Mars.
News media representatives are invited to attend a 9:15 a.m. EDT tour of the Textron Defense Systems facility to view the heat shield in its fabrication area and custom-built equipment and robotic systems necessary to build the heat shield. Reporters also will hear from Dan Dumbacher, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems; Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager; and managers from Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for Orion, and Textron Defense Systems.
Journalists who plan to attend should respond to Brandi Dean at [email protected] or 281-244-1403 by 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 16. All guests must present a valid driver's license upon arrival at the facility. Foreign nationals will be required to present a valid passport. Textron Defense Systems is located at 201 Lowell St. in Wilmington. Media should enter the facility from Rt. 38 (Main Street).
EFT-1 will send Orion 3,600 miles into orbit, farther than any spacecraft built for humans has traveled in more than 40 years. During its return to Earth, the spacecraft will reach speeds of up to 20,000 miles per hour, faster than the space shuttles or any current spacecraft. The increased speed means Orion must endure temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.
The heat shield skeleton and skin were assembled at Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver, and then shipped to Textron Defense Systems in March aboard NASA's Super Guppy cargo aircraft. Since then, technicians have been covering the structure with Avcoat, an ablative material designed to erode as it heats up, to protect the interior of the spacecraft from extreme temperatures during re-entry.
Once complete, the heat shield will be shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center for installation on the Orion crew module.