The Orion Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) spacecraft is about to get its heat shield, which is manufactured in large part by Lockheed Martin. Building the heat shield involved a so-called out of autoclave (OOA) cure process, a high temperature, high pressure method for manufacturing composite materials, such as carbon fiber and epoxy resins.

Orionā€™s heat shield is a stiffened skin design, and this curing process was the last step prior to attaching titanium stiffeners to the interior surface. Once the skin and stiffeners are attached, ablative materialā€“called AVCOAT, used previously during Apollo missionsā€“is applied to the exterior. In the rather impressive photo above we can see the heat shield being inspected by Lockheed engineers. Hot.

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[Lockheed Martin]