NASA is preparing for next-generation deep space travel with its ultra-advanced Orion spacecraft, which is presumably the safest human-rated spacecraft ever made to date.
The spacecraft has been transported by guppy plane over to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center after a long stay in New Orleans where its seven large segments were being welded together and built. Now safely in Florida, it’s being secured on the ‘birdcage,’ which is a new testing stand made for the Orion spacecraft.
At the Kennedy Space Center, it will prepare for testing to ensure that the spacecraft will be safe and can withstand space-like conditions. After that’s completed, engineers will attach systems and subsystems to Orion to complete its build.
“The module will receive its avionics; electrical power storage and distributions systems; thermal controls; cabin pressure control; command and data handling; communications and tracking; guidance, navigation and control; reaction control system propulsion; and flight software and computers,” NASA noted in a statement.
Orion will eventually take astronauts to Mars, but before it does, NASA will be testing its safety with a test flight to the Moon. The first test flight will occur in 2018 and will be unmanned. At that time, the Orion spacecraft will orbit the Moon a few times before coming back to Earth.
The Orion spacecraft will be affixed to NASA’s ultra powerful new SLS rocket when that time comes, and NASA expects to have astronauts travelling in the Orion Spacecraft as soon as 2020. Astronauts will first travel to the Moon, and will venture to Mars in the not-so-distant future.
“The arrival of Orion is very exciting for us,” said Scott Wilson, NASA Orion production manager. “This is the first mission where the Orion spacecraft will be integrated with the large Space Launch System rocket. Orion is the vehicle that’s going to take astronauts to deep space.”
”At Kennedy, we are going to turn the pressure vessel into a fully operational spacecraft,” Wilson said. “We have a robust test program that is distributed across key facilities in several states. After we complete testing here, Orion will be sent to Plum Brook Station at the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio for additional testing.”
There is a lot of testing that still has to be done before the spacecraft is deemed space-worthy. Although the spacecraft is shiny and new, it’s still in the middle of its development and hasn’t yet been completed. After the build is finished, testing the spacecraft to ensure it’s worthy for the missions it will have placed in front of it are of utmost importance to ensure the safety of any astronauts that will ride inside of it.