First Orion arrives at KSCJuly 2, 2012
Last Thursday, when you were either deifying or damning Chief Justice John “The Dread Pirate” Roberts, Lockheed-Martin delivered the first flyable Orion to the Kennedy Space Center.
No, it’s not this Orion:
And it’s certainly not this Orion:
No, it’s this one:
Of course, it’s not done. The plan at the moment is to launch it a year or so from now on a Delta, do two elliptical orbits to an apogee of 3600 miles, then drive it back into the atmosphere at about 20,000 mph to simulate the stress an Orion would take coming straight back from the Moon, Apollo-style. It would be unmanned. Then a year or two later the next one would be launched on the planned heavy lifter to do an Apollo 8-style circumlunar trip (I don’t know about lunar orbit, maybe more like Apollo 13, just swingin’ around and a free return) as an unmanned vehicle as well. Then finally, a year or so later, launch one with people on a lunar mission. That should make it about 2019 or so, I reckon, allowing for Congress to screw up the budget a couple more times.
Of course, when they get there they will have to decide if they are going to land near the Chinese colony or the privately-owned SpaceX lunar base.