The U.S recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 but what celebration would it have been if we wouldn’t have received some news about the country’s next trip to the Moon?
NASA, alongside Lockheed Martin, have announced that the Orion crew capsule has been completed and that it will be playing an important role in the uncrewed mission that will fly past the Moon in the near future, dubbed Artemis 1.
The announcement was made by Vice President Mike Pence during a ceremony that took place in front of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida.
Engineers and technicians from both Lockheed Martin and NASA have been working on assembling the capsule ever since it arrived in Florida. They installed its avionic computers, harnesses, propulsion system as well as all of its 12 engines, 11 parachutes and the heat shield, which measures 16 feet in diameter. And that’s just counting the larger bits.
The team put together the crew and service modules earlier in the week, during what is known as the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) cell. They are now fully integrated and connect the umbilical lines between the two modules, in the same way the FAST cell on the Apollo spacecraft did.
The integrated modules will go through a series of tests on site until September when they will be sent to the NASA Plum Brook Station in Ohio. There, they will go through another series of tests in a thermal vacuum chamber.
“Throughout assembly, the team tested and validated the many systems a hundred different ways to ensure they will operate as designed in the harshness of deep space,” Mike Hawes, Orion program manager for Lockheed Martin has said in a press statement. “The Artemis 1 flight will test the design and workmanship of the capsule and its service module during the three-week mission out around the Moon and back.”
The uncrewed mission is set for early 2020 and, if all goes according to plan, the first crewed mission, which will bear the name Artemis 2, will set off to the skies in 2022.
“Orion is a new class of spaceship, uniquely designed for long-duration deep space flight, that will return astronauts to the Moon and eventually take the first humans to Mars, and bring them all back safely.” Lisa Callahan, Vice President and General Manager of Commercial Civil Space for Lockheed Martin said in a press release. “Orion will accelerate scientific discovery of our solar system and will be the cornerstone of the defining space achievement of this era.”