JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — A heat shield designed to protect NASA’s Orion spacecraft as it flies through the Earth’s atmosphere at up to 20,000 mph arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday night.
The shield, which was extensively tested with high-temperature arc-jets at Johnson Space Center and the Ames Research Center, is built to withstand more than 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
In January 2012, Lockheed Martin contractors at the Waterton Facility near Denver built the shield’s structure, a titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin. Ablative material — fireproof material used to protect spacecraft entering and leaving the Earth’s atmosphere — was then added at Textron Defense Systems in Boston.
When the Orion launches on its first unmanned test flight in September, the heat shield will be in place for the two-orbit journey at an altitude of about 3,600 miles.