Posted by John McHaleNEW ORLEANS, 11 Feb. 2011. The Lockheed Martin [NYSE:LMT] Orion team shipped out the first Orion crew module spacecraft structure today from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The Orion spacecraft is headed to Lockheed Martin's Denver facilities where it will undergo a series of rigorous tests to confirm Orion's ability to safely fly astronauts through all the harsh environments of deep space exploration missions.Soon after the spacecraft arrives in Denver, it will be integrated with the heat shield and thermal protection backshell before undergoing environmental testing. This crew module will also go through a series of simulated landing scenarios at Langley's new Hydro Impact Basin. The Langley facility will be used to test, validate, and certify water landings for all human-rated spacecraft for NASA."This is a significant milestone for the Orion project and puts us on the right path toward achieving the President's objective of Orion's first crewed mission by 2016," says Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager. "Orion's upcoming performance tests will demonstrate how the spacecraft meets the challenges of deep-space mission environments such as ascent, launch abort, on-orbit operations, high-speed return trajectory, parachute deployment, and water landings in a variety of sea states."Built to spaceflight specifications, this Orion ground test vehicle has already validated advanced production processes, equipment, and tools required to manufacture the Orion crew module space flight hardware. Data collected from the testing and pathfinding operations will be incorporated to enhance design, requirements, tooling, processes, inspection, and test that will ultimately result in a safe, reliable, and affordable human-rated space exploration vehicle.Orion has passed critical human-rating milestones, including Orion's flight test of its launch abort system and the successful phase one safety review that validated Orion meets many of NASA's stringent requirements for safe human spaceflight.Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor to NASA for the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The Orion spacecraft will be comprised of a crew module for crew and cargo transport; a service module for propulsion, electrical power and fluids storage; a spacecraft adapter for securing it to a launch vehicle; and a launch abort system that will significantly improve crew safety.