Orion spacecraft under inspection by engineers and technicians.

Heat shield inspections underway on Artemis I Orion spacecraft after historical mission

After a historical mission to the Moon and back, the Orion spacecraft from Artemis I is to underway a series of inspections and tests as technicians begin to inspect its heat shield durability after reentry.

  • More details coming soon...


Sun Jan 15 2023Written by Lucca

After a historical mission under Artemis I, the Orion spacecraft safely returned to Earth, splashing down on the Pacific Ocean after a 25-day successful mission. Orion was returned to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 30, where engineers and technicians performed a series of inspections of the capsule’s heat shield. 

Orion’s heat shield endured temperatures near 2,760 degrees Celsius (or 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit) during its reentry through Earth’s atmosphere. The heat shield will be removed from the spacecraft and taken to another facility for additional detailed inspections.

Teams are also inspecting the capsule's windows and the thermal protection on the back shell panels that cover the spacecraft to protect it from the harsh conditions both in space and during the high-speed, high-heat reentry. Those components are vital for the survival not only of the astronauts inside it but the capsule itself, as the heat on reentry is enough to melt down the spacecraft and its systems.

During its return, the capsule uses a group of five airbags to position the capsule right side up after splashdown, those were deflated prior to transport back to the Kennedy Space Center; currently, engineers are in the process of removing external avionics boxes as technicians take air samples within the capsule ahead of moving it into a service stand in order to allow access to the interior. Upon opening the hatch, technicians are to remove the internal avionics boxes and payloads, which after a sequence of detailed inspections and testing, shall be reused for the Artemis II mission.

De-servicing will continue in the coming months with the removal of the hazardous commodities that remain onboard. Once complete, the spacecraft will travel to NASA’s Glenn’s Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility for abort-level acoustic vibration and other environmental testing.