NASA says new deep space vehicle on track for 2014 test

Nov 13, 2013
The first flight shell of NASA's new Orion spacecraft is presented to invited guests and the media inside the Operations and Checkout building at Kennedy Space Center, Florida on July 2, 2012

The first test mission of a new deep space capsule that could one day take humans to Mars is on track for September 2014, the US space agency said Tuesday.

Orion aims to replace US capacity to reach space—which ended with the retirement of the closed in 2011 after 30 years—and ferry astronauts farther in the than ever before.

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the project has made "tremendous progress."

NASA has described Orion as "a flexible system that can to launch crew and cargo missions, extend human presence beyond low-Earth , and enable new missions of exploration throughout our solar system."

Orion will not carry humans on board until 2021 at the earliest.

Its four-hour test flight next year will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

After that, the unmanned craft is to make two orbits around the Earth, traveling at a distance of 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) above Earth's surface, and then plunge back into Earth's atmosphere at high speed.

The test tour will take it 15 times farther than the International Space Station's orbit around the globe.

Bill Gerstenmaier speaks at the Kennedy Space Center on July 31, 2009 in Cape Canaveral, Florida

The flight aims to test the vehicle's thermal heat shield as it plunges through temperatures of 4,000 Fahrenheit (2,200 Celsius), and see how well the nearly nine-ton spacecraft splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off California.

However, the Delta IV heavy rocket that will launch the spacecraft is not yet ready.

Gerstenmaier said the space launch system (SLS) is 70 percent complete and again cited "tremendous progress" on the project.

Orion's next mission—a spin around the Moon—is set for 2017.

While no crew will be on board, the test run aims to orbit the Moon at a height of 75,000 kilometers (46,600 miles) for three weeks, he said.

Gerstenmaier described this as "a stable orbit" in which an object could remain "for 100 years without any altitude adjustment."

Indeed, plans for the future include placing a 500-ton asteroid in the so that Orion crews could visit it, perhaps in the 2020s.

"We are going to take this capsule into that region around the Moon and see how we can actually use lunar gravity to get in this orbit and get out of this orbit and return back to the Earth," he said.

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA's Orion spacecraft comes to life

Oct 29, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA's first-ever deep space craft, Orion, has been powered on for the first time, marking a major milestone in the final year of preparations for flight.

NASA plans 2014 test-flight of deep-space capsule

Nov 08, 2011

NASA said Tuesday it will launch in 2014 an unmanned test flight of its Orion deep space capsule, made by Lockheed Martin to someday carry astronauts to the moon, an asteroid or Mars.

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

22 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

Dec 19, 2014

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.