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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Construction begins on first manned Orion spacecraft

• https://newatlas.com, David Szondy

This week, Lockheed Martin technicians and engineers welded together the first two components of the Orion crew capsule for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), which will carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time in almost 50 years.

So far, only one operational Orion capsule reached space when the unmanned Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) lifted off atop a Delta IV Heavy booster on December 5, 2014. A second, more advanced Orion is currently being prepared for Exploration Mission-1. It's scheduled to fly in 2019 using the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, but again, without a crew.

Though the EM-2 Orion will be a major step in the American program to establish a Deep Space Gateway station, return to the Moon, and eventually make a manned landing on Mars, it isn't much to look at at the moment. The first construction step involved welding the command capsule's forward bulkhead to the tunnel section, to form the top of the spacecraft. In all, seven large machined aluminum alloy pieces will form the pressure vessel, which is the main hull of the craft.

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