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Next-gen spacecraft on display in Florida

TWO OF THE NEXT GENERATION of space vehicles are going through their paces on the ground in Florida.

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle is seen in the photo below in the high bay of the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Centre, during a tour for media representatives.

Orion is the spacecraft designed to carry crews to space beyond low-Earth orbit. It will provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

In many respects, Orion is similar to the old Apollo command module, but with the ability of carry at least four astronauts (Apollo could carry only three).

It was announced only weeks ago, that the Orion service module will be provided by the European Space Agency, based upon its successful Automated Transfer Vehicle uncrewed cargo craft.

The first unpiloted test flight of the Orion is scheduled in 2014 atop a Delta IV rocket, and in 2017, on a Space Launch System rocket.

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle at the Kennedy Space Centre

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle at the Kennedy Space Centre

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, undergoing processing for the system’s second operational flight.

Meanwhile, the Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, Dragon spacecraft with solar array fairings attached, is seen inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The spacecraft will launch on the upcoming SpaceX CRS-2 mission, perhaps in March. The flight will be the second commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station by SpaceX.

NASA has contracted for a total of 12 commercial resupply flights from SpaceX and eight from the Orbital Sciences Corp.

Adapted from information issued by NASA. Photos by Frankie Martin and Kim Shiflett.

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NASA launch tower goes for a ride

THE MOBILE LAUNCHER that will host NASA’s Space Launch System and new Orion spacecraft was moved to Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida to begin two weeks of structural and systems tests.

This is the first time the mobile launcher has moved that far. The 3,000-tonne structure rode to the pad atop one of the crawler-transporters that carried the space shuttles and Saturn V rockets to the launch pads.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / Kim Shiflett.

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Where do you land a space shuttle?

NASA’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, has one of the longest runways in the world—4,572 metres or 15,000 feet. It is used for space shuttle landings, plus landings and take-offs of the Shuttle Training Aircraft (a modified business jet), the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (a modified Boeing 747 that can carry the shuttle on its back) and other NASA, government and civilian aircraft.

The runway also has a nickname, the “gator tanning facility,” due to the number of alligators found basking on it. The Kennedy Space Centre is a wildlife refuge as well as a launch and landing facility!

Story by Jonathan Nally, Editor, SpaceInfo.com.au

Video courtesy NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre.

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