Northeast Ohio is playing a major role in developing NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the first manned flight to Mars. A prototype of the spacecraft’s service module will be undergoing atmospheric and strength simulations at NASA Glenn Research Center’s testing facility in Sandusky. Nicole Smith is the project manager for the Orion Project at Plum Brook Station. She says local involvement is essential.
So you basically want to test your spacecraft through all these different very harsh environments and then power on all of your systems, make sure everything still works. Make sure your crew module holds air and can retain pressure, then you have qualified your spacecraft to fly people in it.
Smith says the Plum Brook facility was chosen because it has the largest vacuum chamber in the world. The next unmanned Orion flight is scheduled for the fall of 2018.