Aug. 22, 2006
Michael Braukus/Beth Dickey
Johnson Space Center, Houston
NASA NAMES NEW CREW EXPLORATION VEHICLE ORION
NASA announced Tuesday that its new crew exploration vehicle will be
Orion is the vehicle NASA’s Constellation Program is developing to
carry a new generation of explorers back to the moon and later to
Mars. Orion will succeed the space shuttle as NASA’s primary vehicle
for human space exploration.
Orion’s first flight with astronauts onboard is planned for no later
than 2014 to the International Space Station. Its first flight to the
moon is planned for no later than 2020.
Orion is named for one of the brightest, most familiar and easily
“Many of its stars have been used for navigation and guided explorers
to new worlds for centuries,” said Orion Project Manager Skip
Hatfield. “Our team, and all of NASA - and, I believe, our country -
grows more excited with every step forward this program takes. The
future for space exploration is coming quickly.”
In June, NASA announced the launch vehicles under development by the
Constellation Program have been named Ares, a synonym for Mars. The
booster that will launch Orion will be called Ares I, and a larger
heavy-lift launch vehicle will be known as Ares V.
Orion will be capable of transporting cargo and up to six crew members
to and from the International Space Station. It can carry four
crewmembers for lunar missions. Later, it can support crew transfers
for Mars missions.
Orion borrows its shape from space capsules of the past, but takes
advantage of the latest technology in computers, electronics, life
support, propulsion and heat protection systems. The capsule’s
conical shape is the safest and most reliable for re-entering the
Earth’s atmosphere, especially at the velocities required for a
direct return form the moon.
Orion will be 16.5 feet in diameter and have a mass of about 25 tons.
Inside, it will have more than 2.5 times the volume of an Apollo
capsule. The spacecraft will return humans to the moon to stay for
long periods as a testing ground for the longer journey to Mars.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, manages the Constellation
Program and the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville,
Ala., manages the Exploration Launch Projects’ office for the
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Washington.
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