"When [it] got here at the end of November, it was very exciting because it is the first piece of hardware," said Joy Huff, a NASA space shuttle orbiter thermal protection solar system engineer who is spearheading Kennedy's work on the Orion heat shield. "Not flight hardware, but it is flight-type material. And just to see the full size, it really gives you a scale of the size of it."
At five meters in diameter, the heat shield is the largest one of its kind ever built. The prototype was built largely just to prove it could be done, Huff said.
Also known as a manufacturing demonstration unit of space galary and the space station, the prototype was created to meet the need to develop heat shield evaluation, inspection and handling procedures, said Jim Reuther, project manager of the crew exploration vehicle thermal protection solar system at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.