NASA's Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), slated for a mission to high lunar orbit in 2018, has taking another step towards becoming a reality.
After the mission earlier this year to test the Orion crew capsule, Lockheed Martin have taken the capsule through a thorough review process to see if it is capable of withstanding the rigours of translunar flight. The purpose of the Critical Design Review was to examine how well key components of the spacecraft held together, including "the structure, pyrotechnics, Launch Abort System, software, guidance, navigation and control, and many others." according to the Lockheed Martin press release.
The unmanned EM-1 and its sister mission, EM-2, are the first steps towards a Mars mission - allowing NASA engineers to test their designs well beyond the protective bounds of Earth's magnetosphere and helping certify them for manned exploration in the future.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and NASA have completed the majority of Orion’s Critical Design Review (CDR) which means the spacecraft’s design is mature enough to move into full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test of the vehicle. It also means that the program is on track to complete the spacecraft’s development to meet NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) performance requirements. The complete Orion EM-1 CDR process will conclude after the European Service Module CDR and a presentation to the NASA Agency Program Management Council in the spring.