NASA’s Orion spacecraft was transported from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to Mansfield Lahm Airport (MFD) in Ohio onboard the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft on Sunday. The aircraft arrived at MFD at approximately 4:35 p.m. EST where it was greeted by a crowd of almost 1,500 people. NASA acquired the Super Guppy, which is the last Guppy aircraft still flying, in 1997.
“Orion and the service module will be the heaviest payload ever transported in the Super Guppy,” said NASA Super Guppy program manager John Bakalyar. “We actually had to make some modifications to the aircraft to accommodate it, but this is exactly the kind of thing we like to use the Guppy for—it allows us to play a small role in getting Orion to space.”
The Orion spacecraft is headed to NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, for testing. Plum Brook houses facilities such as a space simulation vacuum chamber measuring 100 feet in diameter by 122 feet high and an acoustic test chamber that can simulate the noise of a spacecraft launch up to 163 decibels. While there, Orion will undergo a thermal test, during which NASA says the spacecraft will be subjected to temperatures ranging from -250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit “to replicate flying in-and-out of sunlight and shadow in space.” Electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing will also be conducted.
Once testing is complete, Orion will be returned to Kennedy for integration with the Space Launch System in preparation for the uncrewed Artemis I Moon mission.