NASA's first full-scale flight-test mockup of the Constellation program's Orion crew module is at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Calif. undergoing preparations for the first flight test of the spacecraft's launch abort system late this year.
Image right: NASA Dryden Flight Research Center personnel accompany NASA's first Orion full-scale abort flight test crew module as it heads to it's new home. NASA Dryden/Tony Landis
The Orion mockup arrived on a U.S. Air Force C-17 at NASA Dryden March 28. After painting in the Edwards Air Force Base paint hangar, the capsule was delivered to Dryden for installation of flight computers, instrumentation and other electronics. Following systems installation, NASA Dryden will ship the completed vehicle to the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, where the escape system will be integrated with the vehicle for the first abort flight test in late 2008.
Five abort flight tests will launch from White Sands, with the sixth and last test of the system flying from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The tests will ensure a safe, reliable method of escape for astronauts in case of an emergency.
Engineers and technicians at NASA's Langley Research Center fabricated the structure, which precisely represents the size, outer shape and mass characteristics of the Orion space capsule.
The Abort Flight Test effort is managed by NASA Dryden under the leadership of the Project Orion Flight Test Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.
Part of NASA's fleet of next generation spacecraft, Orion will take astronauts to the International Space Station and then back to the moon by 2020.
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