New deep space vehicle to be based on Orion: NASA

May 24, 2011
NASA's full-size Orion exploration test vehicle is displayed in 2009 near the rocket garden at Kennedy Space Center's visitor center in Florida. NASA said Tuesday that a new spacecraft to take humans into deep space will be based on designs for the Orion crew exploration vehicle and built by Lockheed Martin.

NASA said Tuesday that a new spacecraft to ferry humans into deep space will be based on designs for the Orion crew exploration vehicle and built by Lockheed Martin.

The Orion capsule, originally designed to take astronauts back to the moon, is a surviving component of the Constellation manned space exploration program canceled by President Barack Obama last year for being behind schedule and over budget.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden said the designs for Orion would be used to forge ahead with a new spacecraft known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which would lift off atop a massive rocket and someday take explorers to an asteroid and Mars.

"We are committed to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there," Bolden said in a statement.

He said Congress's NASA Authorization Act "lays out a clear path forward for us by handing off transportation to the International Space Station to our private sector partners, so we can focus on deep space exploration.

"As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track."

Lockheed Martin Corporation is to continue its work on building the space capsule -- begun in 2006 -- which aims to carry four astronauts at a time on 21-day missions into deep space.

The capsule will weigh 23 tons and NASA has no date set for a potential launch, said Douglas Cooke, associate administrator for NASA's exploration systems mission directorate. There is also no final cost associated with the project.

"We are still working on our integrated architecture, and that includes the space launch system along with ground systems and other supporting projects," said Cooke.

"At this point we do not have a specific date," he said. "In terms of deep space exploration we hope to have test flights obviously in this decade. We are not exactly sure when but obviously as early as possible."

NASA to use moon capsule for other space missions (AP)
This undated picture made available by Lockheed Martin via NASA shows the assembly and testing of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle at Lockheed Martin's Vertical Testing Facility in Colorado. On Tuesday, May 24, 2011, NASA unveiled a new name for its previously planned moon capsule. (Lockheed Martin via NASA)

With the space shuttle program ending this year, NASA is working with private companies on a separate effort to build a new spacecraft to replace the shuttle and transport astronauts and cargo to the orbiting International Space Station.

When the shuttles become museum pieces, US astronauts will hitch rides on Russian spacecraft to orbiting station until a replacement is developed.

SpaceX successfully tested its Dragon capsule last year on the first ever flight into orbit and back by an unmanned commercial spacecraft.

Several companies are competing to be the first to have a new crew space vehicle ready for low Earth orbit by 2015.

Unlike the space shuttle, the MPCV is designed to be "10 times safer during ascent and entry," NASA said.

"The Orion government and industry team has shown exceptional creativity in finding ways to keep costs down through management techniques, technical solutions and innovation," Cooke said.

Explore further: Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA proposes $17.6 billion budget

Feb 05, 2008

U.S. space officials proposed spending $17.6 billion next year with a focus on the International Space Station and space shuttle programs.

NASA spared cuts in US spending bill passage

Apr 15, 2011

NASA breathed a sigh of relief on Friday after Congress approved a government spending bill that secured $18.5 billion for the US space agency, sparing it from the prospect of cuts.

NASA selects Ares I upper state contractor

Aug 29, 2007

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected The Boeing Co. to provide design and construction support for the Ares I rocket upper stage.

NASA Refines Design For Crew Exploration Vehicle

Jan 13, 2006

NASA's Constellation Program is making progress toward selecting a prime contractor to design, develop and build the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), America's first new human spacecraft in 30 years.

Recommended for you

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

14 hours ago

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

16 hours ago

( —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

19 hours ago

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

Image: Rosetta's Philae lander snaps a selfie

20 hours ago

Philae is awake… and taking pictures! This image, acquired last night with the lander's CIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) instrument, shows the left and right solar panels of ESA's well-traveled ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 24, 2011
That picture with half a dozen different rockets in the background is awesome.

The shuttle fleet retirement is long overdue. Hopefully they start finding cheaper and more effective alternatives, like the now proven falcon heavy, which cost less than 20% as much to use, pound for pound.
5 / 5 (2) May 24, 2011
Good to see some re-use happening. Depressing to keep starting from scratch with each new administration. Simplicity rules, do one thing well. Love the Shuttle but it suffers from being designed by committee.
5 / 5 (1) May 25, 2011
Hope it fits in Skylon's cargo bay !!

More news stories

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

( —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.