NASA and main contractor Lockheed announced that one of the program milestones of has been reached.
Orion spacecraft and SLS launch vehicle are great hopes of NASA. After rising budget for these two projects for 2016 fiscal year, news about reaching important point in project development is confirmation about possibility of NASA to keep the schedule. On 26th October, Lockheed Martin announced that they finished Critical Design Review (CDR) after final welding of three modules of Orion spacecraft. If CDR testing of European Service Module (European contribution in Orion project) will finish with no delay, it is possible that we will have EM-1 mission in 2018. Unmanned Orion will be launched on atop new SLS launch vehicle from modernized launch site in Kennedy Space Center. Planned mission duration will be 22 days. Orion will reach far than Apollo and break distance record for about 48000 km. Orion is planned to be advanced spacecraft lifting up two six crew members with modern rescue system working in every moment from launch (it will be crucial change comparing to Space Shuttle). Main competition of Orion, Dragon V2 spacecraft currently is under testing with its manned version, it has planned orbital manned mission on 2017. It is hard to compare these two projects, differences in terms of scale and financial potential are too big. But achieving such ambitious aim like successful testing in one mission: launch vehicle, spacecraft and launch site combined with breaking space record will be indisputable great achievement of NASA maybe comparable to Saturn V. We can only hope that just as for Saturn V, launch site LC39 will be lucky for SLS.