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NEWS | March 28, 2018

NASA Orion crew module gets fresh paint job for launch

By Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Not every base has an opportunity to be part of a large scale project such as NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort Test 2 (AA-2) project, but with Joint Base Langley-Eustis being so near to a NASA facility, that opportunity arose.

The project has been in the works for a little over a year, and NASA decided to use Langley’s corrosion booth since it has been used in the past for similar missions.

The NASA Orion AA-2 crew module was transported to the Langley corrosion booth to be painted for launch abort system testing, which is what a crew uses for landing during a manned mission. The paint is important during the launch, because the markings that are painted allow data to be collected based off the movement of the markings.

“The black markings are associated with a visual cue to allow us to understand how the vehicle is orienting during the actual abort scenario,” said Kurt Detweiler, NASA-Langley Research Center Orion AA-2 project manager. “We have aircraft and ground cameras that are looking up at the vehicle.”

Although other aspects are taken into consideration for testing such as weight and avionics logistics, the paint is very important especially since the team can’t be up close during the tests.

Part of the mission was also getting three platforms transferred with the crew module for further fabrication. For this, NASA needed a place to ship the platforms and Fort Eustis was the perfect spot.

NASA was able to transfer all three of their 20-foot by 20-foot platforms by large truck down to Third Port at Fort Eustis.

“We have a great working relationship with NASA that started in 2013 when we supported them moving the NASA Orion training capsule from NASA-Langley through Third Port to go off-shore to the Virginia Capes for rough water testing,” said Jay DeHart, 733rd Logistics Readiness Squadron harbormaster. “Since then, we have supported them with the movement of three pieces of the Orion launch pad from NASA-Langley through Third Port JBLE-Eustis to Kennedy Space Center, Florida”

The platforms allow access for workers to move around the module during other maintenance. Not only was this beneficial for NASA, but the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy mariners got valuable training while supporting the shipment of the Orion equipment.

“Logistically, it just makes sense for them to ship their large oversized equipment from Third Port,” said DeHart. “JBLE-Langley's tidal waters are just too shallow to accommodate a vessel of any size large enough to support these moves. Third Port has adequate water depth, pier and quay-wall area large enough to support crane operations, and is home to the U.S. Army's 7th Transportation Brigade Watercraft.”

The relationship between NASA and JBLE goes back to the 1900’s and has supported various missions, and is sure to support more.

“It’s an ongoing relationship that we continue today, so it’s been fantastic,” said Detweiler.

The next stop for the crew module is the final fabrication, install and button up. Also, an avionics system and development flight instrumentation system will be installed before it is transported to the Kennedy Space Center. After all the hardware is completed early next year, the NASA Orion crew module should be ready for integration activity at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.