CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (FL Today)- NASA and Lockheed Martin unveiled the first space-bound Orion spacecraft today, setting the stage for a unmanned flight test that will take the vehicle further from Earth than any mission in 40 years.
Some 450 people gathered in the newly refurbished Orion production line at Kennedy Space Center to mark the arrival of the spacecraft, which will be outfitted for flight at the Operations and Checkout Building.
It will be the first time a spacecraft for human spaceflight has been produced at KSC. The production line work will be done by a crew that will total about 400 people, offsetting some of the job losses that resulted from the 2011 shutdown of the shuttle program.
"This is a milestone moment for the Space Coast, NASA and America's space program," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told the crowd. "Orion's arrival here marks a major accomplishment in an ambitious new American space program."
The Orion spacecraft is slated to blast off from Launch Complex 37 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. It will travel 3,600 miles about Earth's surface, 15 times farther than the orbit the International Space Station is flying in.
Then after two spins around the planet, the spacecraft will make the type of high-speed atmospheric reentry vehicles would make on a return from an asteroid, the moon, or Mars.
The primary goal of the flight is to test the spacecraft's heat shield and other systems critical to flight safety.