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The Orion capsule arriving at the Kennedy Space Center  (Source: spaceref.com)
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 Bubbacub on 7/4/2012 7:14:04 AM , Rating: 2
the shuttle did not justify its cost.

it gobbled up 200 billion (1), killed 14 astronauts (in missions that could have been fulfilled with an unmanned launcher) and left the US military with no orbital ability (2) in a crucial stage of the cold war (after challenger - the shuttle fleet was grounded).

when you add the 400 billion spent on the ISS (2)- which was essentially spent to validate the existence of the space shuttle you are looking at ~ half trillion spend on the part of the USA.

this spend has given us the ability to grow crystals in zero gravity and err....

i love space, i loved watching the shuttle launch and am continually amazed at the engineering that made the shuttle even semi-reusable but it did not provide value for money.

for that kind of cash we could have had a cheap solid rocket booster to dump satellites into orbit and carried on with an improved saturn V rocket.

an improved saturn v could have put up a ISS sized space station in LEO in two or three launches in the early eighties - or gotten us to mars.

the saturn V supply chain and labour costs would kept the pork barrellers happy and the rockets would actually have achieved something more useful for a similar or less spend.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_program...
2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Spac...


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