The first Lockheed Martin Orion capsule scheduled for a ride to space has arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
At present, the capsule is little more than a pressure vessel. The next two years will be spent populating it with flight avionics and equipment.
The capsule will be fitted with instrumentation and launched from a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV launch vehicle in 2014. The spacecraft will fly into space and make only two orbits of Earth before returning in order to simulate atmospheric reentry at speeds approaching that of a mission from outside Earth's orbit.
The Orion capsule is meant to be the primary vessel for human exploration beyond Earth orbit, but a first flight beyond will not be until the Space Launch System (SLS) is ready in 2018. While no single destination has emerged, consensus has formed between a mission to the moon, Mars or a nearby asteroid.