Equipment for unmanned space flight takes off from Huntsville

Equipment for unmanned space flight takes off from Huntsville
NASA's Super Guppy took off from Redstone Airfield carrying the Orion stage adapter on April 3, 2018.

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - NASA's Super Guppy took off from Redstone Airfield Tuesday morning as it headed for the Kennedy Space Center.

The Super Guppy is carrying the Orion stage adapter, which is Marshall's second piece of flight hardware for the Space Launch System's first uncrewed flight. The adapter connects the Orion crew capsule to a propulsion stage that will give Orion that powerful boost it needs to get into deep space. That unmanned flight will have 13 small satellites that will be deployed from this rocket section on their own deep space missions.

"We have 10 that are domestic, then three that are international experiments, and they range from understanding deep space radiation to living organisms to one that will actually land and map the moon to look for water and ice on the surface," said Kimberly Robinson, secondary payload manager for Marshall Space Flight Center.

Todd May, director of Marshall Space Flight Center, said all major pieces of the rocket have been manufactured now, so NASA is more than halfway through with putting the massive rocket together for its first test flight. That first flight is slated for 2019 but will likely be pushed back to 2020.

"And in about a year, we've got a major test in south Mississippi where we will take the entire core stage and do a full firing," said May. "We're excited to be part of the human spaceflight program, and with the administration and Congress, we have fair winds right now with the lunar program. Everything's coming together."

Meanwhile, May says Marshall is also working hard to help certify the two spacecrafts that will once again ferry U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station. That is scheduled to happen later this year.

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