Mars spacecraft's first missions face delays, NASA says

April 14, 2017
The first two launches of NASA's deep-space capsule Orion could be delayed, setting back its Journey to Mars

NASA will probably delay the first two missions of its Orion deep-space capsule, being developed to send astronauts beyond earth's orbit and eventually to Mars, the US space agency said.

A report by NASA's Office of Inspector General cited technical as well as budget challenges.

The first launch of the Orion spacecraft atop the planned Space Launch System, or SLS—set to become the world's most powerful rocket when it flies—is currently scheduled for early November 2018 with no crew.

A second mission carrying astronauts is envisioned for August 2021 at the earliest.

However, "NASA's initial exploration missions on its Journey to Mars—EM-1 and EM-2—face multiple cost and technical challenges that likely will affect their planned launch dates," the report said of the conclusions from a nine-month audit.

It cites delays in the development of the Orion service module, provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as technical risks from changes in the design of the capsule's heat shield.

The audit also reported delays in the development of software for the SLS, Orion and ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"We are concerned NASA will not be able to resolve all necessary software validation and verification efforts in time to meet a November 2018 launch date for EM-1," the report said.

Testing the Space Launch System—NASA's most powerful rocket is designed to carry the Orion deep-space capsule

The total cost for the SLS, Orion and ground systems development programs is expected to reach some $23 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018.

Manned exploration of Mars is expected to exceed $33 billion by 2033.

The White House in February asked the to conduct a feasibility study of the cost, safety, and technical constraints of adding astronauts to the first Orion mission in late 2018.

The report also questions the feasibility of NASA's plans to launch a manned mission to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s. The agency has not provided target dates for a manned orbit of Mars or landings on the planet's surface or nearby moon, it said.

To achieve its goal of sending humans to the vicinity of Mars in the 2030s, NASA must carry out "significant development work on key systems such as a deep space habitat, in- transportation, and Mars landing and ascent vehicles" in the 2020s, the report added.

"The Agency will need to make these and many other decisions in the next 5 years or so for that to happen."

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6 comments

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Ptgus
4 / 5 (4) Apr 14, 2017
Orion wasn't designed to be capable of trip to Mars, please stop peddling this bs.

It's only rated for 14 days in space

TPS unable to withstand reentry at Mars return velocity

Could possibly be hacked together as a shuttle and meet up in space but at 10 times the cost of Dragon or Boeing CEV

Go read the wiki articles on Lockheed Martin corruption
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2017
This is pathetic. NASA announced Orion in 2011 and it was based on the Crew Exploration Vehicle that Lockheed won a contract to design way back in 2006. Even worse, the whole thing is basically a 1960s Apollo capsule scaled up 30% in diameter with a bucket of microprocessors and flat screens thrown in.

https://www.nasa....act.html

After 12 years of lead time, if we can't fly Orion in 2018, what are the chances of a crewed mission reaching Mars in 2033? This is analogous to asking, if we can't muster the will to run in a 5K fun run, what are the chances of successfully competing in the next Olympics? The answer is exactly zero, there is no chance at all.

Everyone except Lockheed and Airbus (the other contractor) hopes SpaceX will come riding to the rescue and save our Mars program. So instead of wasting decades and billions of dollars on SLS/Orion to achieve nothing, perhaps SpaceX should be funded directly to get us to Mars.
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2017
"The report also questions the feasibility of NASA's plans to launch a manned mission to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s."

The scientists at NASA wisely chose 2033 as the target Mars opposition based on science, not "the late 2030s or early 2040s." Interplanetary travel is not like going to the moon. If you miss a launch window going to the moon, another one will open up in a month. Not true with Mars. The best launch windows are 15 or 17 years apart.

"The Agency will need to make these and many other decisions in the next 5 years or so for that to happen."

Unfortunately, we are running out of time to make those changes and there is no sign they will happen under Trump, who continues to put potholes first.
Shootist
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 14, 2017
wiki hardly ranks as a trustworthy source.

just sayin'
koitsu
5 / 5 (1) Apr 16, 2017
Watch out, NASA. A privateer might beat you to the glory. :)
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 17, 2017
Orion wasn't designed to be capable of trip to Mars, please stop peddling this bs.

It's only rated for 14 days in space
Why troll, why?

"It is designed to support long-duration deep space missions, with up to 21 days active crew time plus 6 months quiescent.[34] During the quiescent period crew life support would be provided by another module such as a Deep Space Habitat."
wiki hardly ranks as a trustworthy source.

just sayin'
Sure it does. You mean only when you disagree with it right?

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