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Lockheed Martin wins $4 billion USD contract

Last week it was announced that the name Orion had been selected for NASA's next generation crew exploration vehicle (CEV). Yesterday it was announced that Lockheed Martin would be responsible for building the vehicle that will be pivotal in once again landing Americans back on the moon. The Orion CEV contract is worth an estimated $4 billion USD.

The Orion CEV will not only be responsible for transporting astronauts to the moon, but in earlier missions it will serve as a Space Shuttle successor transporting up to six crew members to and from the International Space Station. Only a crew of four is possible for lunar missions.

“We are humbled and excited as we continue our legacy of five decades of partnership with NASA in every aspect of human and robotic space exploration. Work already is underway and we are fully focused on the vital tasks that lie ahead to meet NASA’s requirements for the program. We have a world-class team of highly dedicated, highly experienced women and men who are passionate about the success of NASA’s missions,” Joanne Maguire, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.

The Orion CEV is designed to be not only much safer than previous manned space vehicles, but it will also be more efficient, more reliable and more affordable as well. NASA hopes to have the new crew vehicle operational by 2014 with manned missions to the moon taking place before 2020.

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RE: Cool name...
By Some1ne on 9/1/2006 5:49:26 PM , Rating: 2
How is a capsule somehow a step forward or "major overhaul" in spacecraft design? It's not...we've used capsules before, and their return has nothing to do with them being superior to the shuttle design in any way. They are simply a reflection of our own technical limitations, and the fact that we still don't have a way of landing a reusable craft on the moon and bringing it back. That, and nothing more.

The shuttle may be 70's era tech, but capsules are 50's era tech.

RE: Cool name...
By arghack on 9/2/2006 7:24:47 AM , Rating: 2
"we've used capsules before, and their return has nothing to do with them being superior to the shuttle design in any way"


Alright, let's start with the problem of that pesky insulating foam that has a tendency to do nasty things to our shuttle. We've spent millions of dollars trying to fix it and it's still a problem. Think about this for a moment: going back to the design of a capsule placed ABOVE the boosters and fuel tank, this completely ELIMINATES the problem. That is a large part of the reason for going back to this design. If the capsule is the highest point, nothing is going to fall on it from higher up. This is just one reason that the capsule design is, in fact, superior. The new design will be simpler, more reliable, and cheaper (but yes, less sexy). I'm all for new technology, but sometimes the old ways really were best.

But I do seem to recall that NASA held previous competitions and chose new shuttle designs, including a cool wedge-shaped version. I guess that was just for show in the end, huh?

RE: Cool name...
By ilmdba on 9/2/2006 4:51:26 PM , Rating: 2
this is all about returning to the moon, and supposedly (though i doubt it), going to mars. you can't do that with a space shuttle, so a new vehicle is needed.

the old capsule/lunar lander method worked great for getting to the moon, so they're going back to that.

and there are much better, cheaper and safer ways to tool around in low-earth orbit like the shuttle has been doing, so we might as well get on with it and scrap them.

the reusability aspect of the shuttle turned out to be a wash. the things cost far more to refit every time they go up than it costs to just make a simple expendable rocket.

and we very rarely used them to haul stuff back from orbit in the cargo bay. there are cheaper/easier ways to bring stuff down from orbit anyway.

so even though the shuttle was kinda cool, and we got some good use out of them back in the day - they're not useful or cost-effective for the upcoming tasks NASA has.

RE: Cool name...
By Samus on 9/3/2006 5:50:00 PM , Rating: 2
the shuttle's maintenance costs exceed its value in 'reusability.'

the goal of orion is to make the capsuls VERY cheap. although they are not reusable, they are recyclable, and the cost will be cheaper than the maintenance of the shuttle's.

the shuttle was a good idea, but these days, everything is disposable. its safer and cheaper to just replace things than reuse them.

RE: Cool name...
By splines on 9/3/2006 10:52:44 PM , Rating: 2
For a lunar lander, you don't need an aerodynamically designed swept-wing craft - you need something that can land vertically, is light and cheap. And sure, if you're going to spend billions on a new capsule launch system, you might as well use it for the ISS as well. It'd be a great way to work out any kinks in a near-earth environment.

I hold the hope that this era of lunar exploration will be more about the science and the prospect of continued habitation than political gain, but I think I'll be disappointed.

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