Marshall Space Flight Center
Space Launch System rocket rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

Nasa has completed a "major milestone" towards beginning their journey to Mars, it was announced on 30 March. The agency said that they had successfully completed a review of its plans for facilities and ground support systems at their Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and were ready to begin the next phase of the project.

Nasa's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft were part of the successful reviews that were carried out over the course of a few months. Nasa engineers and experts are believed to have evaluated hundreds of documents as part of the assessment.

Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of Nasa's Exploration Systems Development Division, said: "Nasa is developing and modernising the ground systems at Kennedy to safety integrate Orion with SLS, move the vehicle to the pad, and successfully launch into space."

In December 2015 the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) completed their design review of the facilities and ground support systems plans. Following that, an independent assessment was carried out in January 2016 by a Standing Review Board, which confirmed that the program is on track to complete the engineering design and development process within their budget and schedule.

A spokesperson for Nasa explained that their engineers were transforming the Kennedy Space Center's launch infrastructure to be able to support the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. Furthermore, the launch team is expected to use a new command and control system in the firing room during the countdown to the first lift-off.

Mike Bolger, GSDO Program Manager, said: "The team is working hard and we are making remarkable progress transforming our facilities. As we are preparing for Nasa's journey to Mars, the outstanding team at the Kennedy Space Center is ensuring that we will be ready to receive SLS and Orion flight hardware and process the vehicle for the first flight in 2018."