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The Orion capsule arriving at the Kennedy Space Center  (Source:
The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is where the capsule will be fully built

NASA's future form of transportation into deep space, the Orion capsule, made its way to NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Friday on Friday, June 29. There, the spacecraft will be built in its entirety.

The Orion capsule, which is designed by Lockheed Martin, will eventually take astronauts into deep space to locations like asteroids and Mars. It will be the most advanced spacecraft ever, with the ability to provide safe re-entry from deep space, a way to sustain astronauts in space, and an emergency abort option. The Orion spacecraft was first unveiled by Lockheed Martin in early 2011.

"This starts a new, exciting chapter in this nation's great space exploration story," said Lori Garver, NASA deputy administrator. "Today we are lifting our spirits to new heights."

The first step, once the Orion capsule is completely built, will be to send the upcoming spacecraft on a test flight in 2014. The test flight, which will not carry a crew, is called Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), and will launch Orion into orbit via the Delta IV-Heavy rocket. The point of EFT-1 is to see how the spacecraft handles different situations in space.

If all goes well with EFT-1, the Orion capsule will take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit via the new Space Launch System (SLS), which is NASA's latest heavy lift vehicle that will also be used as the backup for international and commercial partner transportation to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Orion capsule is set to launch atop the SLS in 2017. The Orion is set to be the main mode of deep space transportation for about 30 years.

"Ladies and gentleman, we're going to Mars," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). "We know the Orion capsule is a critical part of the system that's going to take us there."

Back in February, NASA said it was preparing to explore the Earth-moon libration point 2 (EML-2), which is one of NASA's planned exploration points beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA said EML-2 could be the first step in the "capability-driven" exploration of other space sites like asteroids, the moon and Mars. U.S. President Barack Obama challenged NASA to put a man on an asteroid by 2025 and explore Mars in 2030.

Source: NASA

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RE: It's nice having options
By Ringold on 7/4/2012 1:18:36 AM , Rating: 4
Orion will end up probably being a LEO only vehicle as well, no matter what it may be designed for, at least with the current level of government enthusiasm for manned space exploration.

RE: It's nice having options
By Samus on 7/5/2012 10:25:01 AM , Rating: 2
I still can't believe they canceled the X33 when the components, spacecraft and launch center were nearly 100% complete and entirely within budget, all because they couldn't figure out something with the fuel cells...

RE: It's nice having options
By delphinus100 on 7/5/2012 8:00:50 PM , Rating: 2
It was farther from completion (and budget) than you suggest, and the problem was with cracking and delamination of the layers of the composite hydrogen tank material. Uneven expansion issues at the tank support points were not helping, either It was related to the complex shape of the tank, as opposed to spherical and cylindrical composite LH2 tanks that have done quite well in the DC-X and other projects.

To be fair, however, the tank contractor (according to Aviation Week, back then) did ultimately resolve the delamination issue on its own time and dime, after the project was cancelled.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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