NASA moves Orion spacecraft to VAB ahead of 2022 test flight

67-foot-tall spacecraft will sit atop SLS rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA has moved its Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building as the space agency prepares to hoist the capsule atop its massive Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket.

The 67-foot-tall spacecraft began its six-mile move to the VAB just after midnight on Tuesday and arrived after sunrise. Later this week, crews will use a crane to lift Orion on top of the 300-foot-tall SLS.

The rocket and Orion are scheduled for an uncrewed launch early next year which will see the spacecraft orbit the Moon and then return to Earth.

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A manikin will be on board and suited up with sensors, according to NASA. A manikin is an anatomical model of the human body which is often used in medical schools — as opposed to a mannequin, which is used to display fashion.

In this case, NASA is calling it a “moonikin” because it will fly around the moon.

The one-of-a-kind outfit will collect data on what actual humans may experience during flight. This mission is called Artemis I, a flight test to pave the way for a successful Artemis II, Orion’s first mission with a crew.

The manikin’s seat will have two sensors, one under the headrest and the other behind the commander’s chair. The sensors will record acceleration and vibration throughout the mission. The test dummy will also help collect information about the first-generation Orion Crew Survival System suit, an outfit astronauts will wear during launch, entry and other dynamic phases of their mission.

This test dummy won’t be alone, two phantom torsos will go along for the ride. The occupants, nicknamed Helga and Zohar, will be in the lower two seats onboard Orion. They will measure the amount of space radiation astronauts may experience on their mission to the moon.

Each of these passengers serves the purpose of making sure the future of spaceflight is safe, according to NASA. The space agency emphasizes these test dummies are the key to the evolution of space exploration and to send the first woman and the next man to the moon.

About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.