NASA Celebrations of the 50th anniversary were not just a reminder of past achievements – as the space agency celebrated the day making sure That the Orion crew capsule will return astronauts to the moon for the first time since the Apollo program is ready for its first flight to lunar orbit, currently scheduled sometime after June 2020.
Orion will not carry anyone on its first mission to the moon – instead, as part of Artemis 1, will fly without pay by the new space launch system, and spend a total of three weeks in space including six days orbiting the moon, and then back to Earth. Once back, it will conduct a critical test to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at high velocity to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Aurion capsule shielding before moving an actual crew to Artemis 2 in 2022 and ultimately deliver astronauts to the Moon with Artemis 3 in 2024.
But this is not Orion's first space flight – in 2014 with Exploration Flight Test 1, another unfulfilled mission in which Orion spent only four hours in space, orbiting the earth twice and then returning to earth. This task used the Delta IV missile instead of the new SLS, and was intended to test the main systems before Artemis.
NASA Contractor Lockheed Martin, Who is responsible for the construction of the Orion spacecraft, noting that the combined crew unit and the service unit are being properly integrated and will undergo a series of tests before returning to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida by the end of the year to begin final preparations before launch.