Unveiled: Nasa Orion 'moon' craft which could put man on an asteroid
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 12:04 PM on 22nd March 2011
Last updated at 12:04 PM on 22nd March 2011
- $100bn project axed by Obama get new lease of life as Space Station shuttle
- Nasa have ambitions of using Orion to land astronaut on asteroid by 2019
A test version Nasa shuttle that will allow astronauts to fly to and from the International Space station was showed off today.
The Orion spacecraft, which was initially meant to return humans to the moon until President Barack Obama axed the project, has been given a new lease of life as a docking vehicle.
Nasa hope two of the spacecraft could also be used to support a long-duration mission to an asteroid as early as 2019.
Daring mission: Two Orion spacecraft could be used to support a mission to an asteroid as early as 2019
Unveiled: The first Orion crew module is displayed behind images of how it will look when fitted for space
But, for now, it has a much more limited role of supporting missions at the International Space Station, which is just above the Earth's orbit,
To facilitate this, designers Lockheed Martin have built a huge test area at its Waterton Canyon site south of Denver, where full-size mock-ups both the station and Orion can practice manoeuvres.
The test version of the pod, though bare of the ceramic covering on the outside, is complete inside.
Orion was originally part of President George W. Bush's $100billion moon mission, called Constellation.
But President Obama cancelled Constellation last year, saying the space programme would instead focus on more advanced rocket technology.
Mr Obama revived the Orion portion of the project two months later, with administration officials saying it would be the space station's escape vehicle.
Nasa is now considering at least two roles for future manned spacecraft, including servicing the space station in low Earth orbit and going on longer, more distant missions.
Bare: Although not covered by protective ceramic, the craft is fully functioning inside
Cavernous: The Lockheed Martin test facility at its Waterton Canyon site south of Denver, where full-size mock-ups of the space station and the front section of the Orion can be used to practice docking manoeuvres
At work: Engineers in Louisiana building the Orion spacecraft
‘Orion is going to evolve from what it was under the previous Constellation program into what it needs to become as part of the multipurpose crew vehicle,’ Nasa spokesman Bob Jacobs said.
Lockheed Martin officials were more ambitious today, touting Orion as America's next generation spacecraft that could first explore the far side of the moon then land humans on asteroids and eventually take them to one of the moons of Mars, where they could control robotic instruments on the surface.
Orion includes a module for crew and cargo, a service module for propulsion, electrical power and other requirements, and a launch-abort system to carry the capsule to safety if the booster rocket fails.
NASA successfully tested the launch-abort system two weeks ago at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Lockheed Martin is Nasa's prime contractor for the Orion project.
The company said it built the $35million, 41,000-square-foot test facility, called the Space Operations Simulation Center, at company expense.
The first Orion capsule is being assembled in another building at Lockheed Martin's Waterton Canyon site. It will be used for ground testing and could possibly be launched into a suborbital test flight, said James Bray, Lockheed's crew and service module director.
In space: A computer-generated image of how the Orion will look once completed
The International Space Station: The Orion craft will be used as a docking vehicle and escape pod
Bray said the test results will be used in the engineering of the first Orion capsule to fly in space. Work on that capsule is expected to start in August.
Many of Orion's components can be re-used in subsequent flights, including some electronic systems, Bray said. The spaceship itself won't be reused because of the tremendous forces it endures on liftoff and re-entry, he said.
The first orbital space flight of an Orion capsule is expected in 2013, said John Karas, vice president and general manager for human space flight for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.
Congressman Ed Perlmutter and Senator Michael Bennet, Democrats in Colorado, where 10,000 people are employed by Lockheed Martin, had pressed Mr Obama to salvage the Orion project.
They said they were confident the spacecraft will fly, but neither discussed specifics in brief remarks at the dedication ceremony for the test building.
‘The White House and the Congress both recognize the importance of this program,’ Mr Perlmutter said.