Video courtesy of NASA
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — The covers were pulled back on NASA’s new crewed Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle today, providing a rare look at the spacecraft that will conduct its first test flight next year. The event was held on the third anniversary of President Obama’s visit to Kennedy Space Center, where he laid out his plans for the space agency’s future.
The event was held at the Operations and Checkout Building (O&C) and included photo opportunities with many of the NASA officials involved in Orion’s development. These included NASA Kennedy Space Center Director and four-time space shuttle veteran Robert Cabana, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Dan Dumbacher, Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer, and the Planning and Control Manager for NASA’s Space Launch System Keith Hefner.
The view of Orion was restricted as the spacecraft is currently encased in a test stand that will be used to validate the spacecraft prior to launch. This Orion will be tested in a variety of ways to ensure it is ready to conduct the Exploration Flight Test-1, currently slated to take place in September 2014.
“Many of the core systems that you need to conduct any crewed mission will be tested on EFT-1; we’ll test the heat shield, the guidance and navigation, the parachutes, avionics; we’re going to go 3,000 miles into space and achieve about 84 percent of lunar entry velocity to test the heat shield and again—that’s happening in just a few months,” said Geyer. “Behind us is the flight article for EFT-1; it’s in a stand that we’re going to do a static load test. We’ll pressurize it and we have actuators that will push on the structure to simulate liftoff, parachute deploy, and the other loading tests to make sure that the structure behaves as we expect.”
If all goes according to plan, the Orion spacecraft at today’s event will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2014. It will mark the first test flight of the craft.
Three years later, in 2017, another Orion will be launched on the first test flight of NASA’s new heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System, or “SLS.” Like EFT-1, this mission, Exploration Mission 1, will also be an unmanned test flight. For some time NASA had stated its intent to launch the first manned mission is 2021 on a cislunar flight. However, since that time NASA has been directed to first retrieve a 500 ton, 25-foot-wide asteroid into lunar orbit via an unmanned spacecraft—astronauts would then use both SLS and Orion to travel to the asteroid, collect samples, and then return to Earth. It is hoped that such a mission would not only increase our understanding of asteroids, but also help prepare astronauts for missions to Mars, currently planned to take place sometime in the 2030s.
“Three years ago today, the president was here, in an empty high-bay challenging us to go to an asteroid by 2025. Today, this is a world-class production facility with a flight article, a flight vehicle Orion, getting ready to fly next year. We made tremendous progress in our transition to the future, and now, with the announcement during the budget rollout last week of our plans to retrieve an asteroid and send a crew to it, we’re moving forward to meet the president’s challenge,” Cabana said.
Want to keep up-to-date with all things space? Be sure to “Like” AmericaSpace on Facebook and follow us on Twitter:@AmericaSpace