The first Orion crew module has begun testing at Lockheed Martin's Space Operations Simulation Center (SOSC) in Denver, Colorado. This 41,000 square foot research facility will test the ability of NASA's next-gen multipurpose exploration spacecraft to safely fly astronauts through the severe environments of deep space. Orion will be phased in as the sun sets on the Space Shuttle Program with the first orbital flight test planned for 2013 and first crewed mission by 2016.
In Denver, Orion will be unified with the heat shield and thermal protection layer and be subjected to environmental testing.
The crew module will also perform a series of simulated landing procedures at NASA Langley Research Center's new Hydro Impact Basin to test water landings.
"This is a significant milestone for the Orion project and puts us on the right path toward achieving the President's objective of Orion's first crewed mission by 2016," said Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager. "Orion's upcoming performance tests will demonstrate how the spacecraft meets the challenges of deep-space mission environments such as ascent, launch abort, on-orbit operations, high-speed return trajectory, parachute deployment, and water landings in a variety of sea states."
The SOSC will test a new navigation and docking system, the STORRM (Sensor Test for Orion RelNav Risk Mitigation) on the upcoming STS-134 shuttle mission to the International Space Station. This test will conduct high altitude orbits and a high energy re-entry that mirror the environments of a deep space mission.
"Our nation's next bold step in exploration could begin by 2016," said John Karas, vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin's Human Space Flight programs. "Orion was designed from inception to fly multiple, deep-space missions. The spacecraft is an incredibly robust, technically advanced vehicle capable of safely transporting humans to asteroids, Lagrange Points and other deep space destinations that will put us on an affordable and sustainable path to Mars."
Check out Lockheed Martin's overview of the Orion crew exploration vehicle below:
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning