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Spacecraft for historic, Alabama-powered Artemis I mission to the moon achieves testing milestone

NASA this week announced that the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission achieved yet another step toward being ready for flight.

After four months of rigorous testing in the world’s premier space environments simulation facility at NASA’s Plum Brook Station, the spacecraft is now officially certified.

The test campaign, which was actually completed ahead of schedule in mid-March, subjected the spacecraft to the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic conditions it will endure during its uncrewed test flight around the moon and back to ensure the spacecraft will perform as designed.

(NASA)

The Orion spacecraft will soon fly back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard the agency’s one-of-a-kind Super Guppy to begin final assembly and checkout, including installation of the spacecraft’s four solar arrays, as well as eventual integration with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Alabama is playing an integral role with the Artemis program, including with the SLS. Boeing is the SLS core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is the RS-25 engines lead contractor. The SLS program is managed out of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, while Boeing’s Huntsville-based Space and Launch division manages the company’s SLS work.

SLS is the most powerful rocket in world history and the only rocket that can send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in a single mission.

The goal of NASA’s Artemis program is to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. After that, the program aims to take Americans to Mars. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with Orion and the Gateway in orbit around the moon.

North Alabama also will play a leading role in some of these other components of Artemis, including with the lunar Gateway and the new Human Landing System. Historic contributions to America’s space prowess are being made by several private sector partners in the Yellowhammer State, such as United Launch Alliance (ULA), Boeing and Dynetics.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn