Orion Arrives at Plum Brook for Environmental Testing

The Super Guppy is opened at dawn to reveal Orion spacecraft inside. (Credits: NASA/Bridget Caswell)

SANDUSKY, Ohio (NASA PR) — The Artemis I Orion spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 26 for in-space environmental testing in preparation for Artemis I.

This four-month test campaign will subject the spacecraft, consisting of its crew module and European-built service module, to the vacuum, extreme temperatures and electromagnetic environment it will experience during the three-week journey around the Moon and back. The goal of testing is to confirm the spacecraft’s components and systems work properly under in-space conditions, while gathering data to ensure the spacecraft is fit for all subsequent Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.

“This is the final critical step before the spacecraft is ready to be joined with the Space Launch System rocket for this first test flight in 2020,” said Dr. Marla Pérez-Davis, acting director, NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “Our team at Plum Brook Station has been upgrading the Space Environments Complex to prepare for this test, and we are thrilled that it is here.”

The spacecraft flew into Mansfield Lahm Airport aboard the agency’s Super Guppy from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where engineers and technicians recently completed assembly and integration of the crew capsule and service module. Transportation of the spacecraft is an involved process, bringing together teams from Glenn, Kennedy, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Lockheed Martin, the Ohio Air National Guard, and the following local logistics companies: RPTS Express; Diamond Heavy Haul, Inc.; and Capital City Group, Inc.

“This is an exciting day for our state, as it continues Ohio’s long line of history in our nation’s space exploration pursuits,” said U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson. “From the Wright brothers to the first man on the Moon—Neil Armstrong—to the Orion spacecraft, Ohio leads the United States in the aerospace industry and will continue to do so in the future.”

After unloading Orion at the airport, the transportation team drove the spacecraft across Northeast Ohio’s new space corridor. NASA Glenn worked with the Ohio Department of Transportation and local utility companies to clear more than 700 overhead lines from the 41-mile stretch of rural highway between Mansfield and Plum Brook Station. The space corridor creates new opportunities for Ohio by enabling Plum Brook to conduct large-scale testing of agency and commercial spacecraft previously unachievable due to logistics challenges. 

“This next-generation Orion spacecraft is being tested at NASA Plum Brook because of our region’s world-class workforce and unrivaled experience in space exploration,” said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur. “NASA Plum Brook has a long and storied history at the center of America’s leadership in space exploration. Congratulations to the scientists, engineers and technicians for the hard work that it took get us to this point. Today’s arrival culminates years of planning, coordination and construction. This momentous occasion is an important step on the path to a future manned mission to the Moon.”

Artemis I is an uncrewed test flight around the Moon, the first in a series of progressively more complex missions that will land the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024. NASA will then use what it learns on the Moon to prepare to send humans to Mars.