Near Future Space

The spacecraft of the near future that will take astronauts back into Earth orbit and beyond are on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The Space Launch System (SLS) that is under development is capable of lifting heavy payloads into Earth orbit or on trajectories to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

The SLS will launch the Orion spacecraft, which is capable of carrying astronauts to Mars. On display is the Orion spacecraft used for the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission which tested Orion systems critical to crew safety, such as heat shield performance, separation events, avionics and software performance, attitude control and guidance, parachute deployment and recovery operations. Launched on 5 December 2014 on a Delta-IV Heavy rocket, Orion made two orbits taking it as far out as 3,600 miles of the Earth before reentering at high speeds to test its heat shield.

Orion EFT-1 spacecraft.

Orion EFT-1 spacecraft.

Also on display is a mockup of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft alongside the first SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to fly to the International Space Station (ISS).

Starliner is designed to take up to seven crew members into low Earth orbit for flights to the ISS or other destinations. Interestingly, Starliner will land on the ground in the western United States rather than in the ocean like Orion or Dragon.

The first SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to visit the ISS launched on 12 May 2012. The vehicle carried supplies and equipment to the station under a commercial contract with NASA. SpaceX is currently developing a Dragon spacecraft capable of ferrying astronauts to the ISS.

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