A tale of two spaceships: One gets the glory, the other gets dismantled
Lockheed Martin employees in Littleton test a fake Orion to its brink
The Denver Post
It’s the tale of two spaceships with parallel journeys but opposite endings.
They were built at the same time and with the same design. But one is put through the wringer, pulled and prodded until it’s dismantled and co-opted for parts. The other — the Orion spacecraft — will head to space for three weeks in December 2019 as part of NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 before returning to earth where it will be met with glory and attention.
But Orion would never be able to embark on its first exploration mission if it weren’t for the “fake” Orion currently being tested beyond its brink at Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Littleton facility.
Orion is NASA’s replacement for the space shuttle. Unlike its predecessors, it’s designed for deep-space travel, taking astronauts to the coming Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a floating space station next to the moon, and Mars.
Lockheed Martin and NASA need to prove that the design for the new spacecraft will work. That’s where people like Lockheed Martin’s Dan Qvale come in. Qvale is manager of the Denver Structural Test Article, which is Lockheed’s name for the testing module. He is among about 80 Coloradans at Lockheed Martin who will have been involved in testing the spacecraft by the time Orion takes off next year.
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