September 24, 2017

NASA chooses manned deep-space ship design

Computer generated impression of the Orion space ship approaching the international space station.

Nasa has confirmed that it will use a space vehicle based on the Orion capsule design to send astronauts on deep space missions.

The Orion was ship being built to restart America moon missions. The project was cancelled by President Obama last year, but NASA says that the financial investment in the technology would be not be wasted as it can be used to help in the new Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).

Mr Obama has said he would like humans to visit an asteroid in the 2020s. The MPCV would be the ship that takes them there. It would also have a role in a human mission to Mars that NASA is aiming to undertake in the 2030s’.

Orion was conceived as a high-spec vehicle that could visit the International Space Station and do deep-space destinations.

Aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin was the company leading the development of Orion. It is goingto keep the major contractor role for the new spaceship.

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

The MPCV will be capable of carrying four astronauts on 21-day missions. It would start those journeys by launching on the top of an as-yet-undefined big rocket and end them by splashing down in the Pacific off California.

Nasa says the 23-ton spacecraft would have a pressurized volume of 19.5 cubic metres, just over nine cubic metres of which would be habitable.

On missions longer than 21 days, the MPCV would be attached to other modules.

“During these missions to asteroids or Mars, or to the moons of Mars, this vehicle would be just maintained in more dormant mode while the crew would be in another volume which would have longer-term consumables and capability to support them,” explained Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the agency’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.

“In terms of deep space exploration, we hope to have test flights obviously in this decade. We’re not exactly sure when, but certainly as early as possible. Those would be missions beyond low-Earth orbit.”

Get on with it guys, it sounds great. Mars here we come, but please don’t call the onboard computer system ‘Hal’.