WATCH: Spacecraft destined for Mars powers up for the first time

Engineers switched on the Orion crew module on Tuesday

WATCH: Spacecraft destined for Mars powers up for the first time

Artists impression of Orion orbiting the Moon | Image: Lockheed Martin

A spacecraft which will ultimately try to get to Mars has been powered up for the first time.

Engineers at Lockheed Martin and NASA switched on the Orion crew module at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Tuesday.

Designed for human spaceflight, this Orion will be the first to fly more than 40,000 miles beyond the Moon during its nearly three-week mission, known as EM-1.

The initial power-on was the first time the vehicle management computers and the power and data units were installed on the crew module, loaded with flight software and tested.

Evaluating the core systems, thought of as the "brain and heart" of the capsule, is the first step in testing all of the subsystems.

And while astronauts will not fly in this capsule on this flight, a large majority of the systems are the same design astronauts will rely on during other missions with Orion.

The Orion spacecraft | Image: Lockheed Martin

Mike Hawes is vice president and Orion program manager at Lockheed Martin.

"Orion was designed from the beginning to take humanity farther into space than we've ever gone, and to do this, its systems have to be very robust and reliable.

"Over the last year, we've built great momentum in assembling the crew module for EM-1.

"Everyone on the team understands how crucial this test campaign is, and more importantly, what this spacecraft and mission means to our country and future human space flight."

With the successful initial power on, engineers and technicians will now continue integrating components and connecting them with nearly 400 harnesses.

Over the course of the next two to three months they will perform functional tests to ensure Orion is ready to move to the environmental testing phase.

Orion is the world's first human-rated spacecraft designed for long-duration, deep space exploration.

It will transport humans to destinations beyond low Earth orbit - including the Moon and eventually Mars.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor to NASA for Orion, and is responsible for the design, build, testing, launch processing and mission operations of the spacecraft.