Lockheed Martin, the company responsible for building the Orion spacecraft, released a statement today stating that Orion’s first test flight is in a matter of weeks and that it would be ready for human flights by 2013.
I’ve also heard that the real first flight ready date is more like 2012.
Whichever date it is, that’s two years or so earlier than than SpaceX’s Dragon will be human-rated.
This puts a wee bit of a wrinkle into the Administration’s justification for canceling Constellation because it is too far over budget and behind schedule when Orion was originally scheduled to fly in 2013.
We are keenly disappointed in the Administration’s budget proposal for NASA that would cancel Project Orion as part of an elimination of NASA’s Constellation Program. Orion’s maturity is evident in its readiness for a first test flight in a matter of weeks. In fact, Orion can be ready for crewed flights to low Earth orbit and other exploration missions as early as 2013, thus narrowing the gap in U.S. human space flight capability when the shuttle is retired later this year.