Orion is the name of the NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle.
Orion will use an advanced crew capsule design utilizing state of the art
technology and is a key element of NASA's Vision for Space Exploration and will
succeed the Space Shuttle in transporting a new generation of human explorers to
and from the International Space Station, the Moon and eventually to Mars and
The new crew vehicle is designed to be an
order of magnitude safer, more reliable, more affordable and more operationally
efficient than previous human space flight systems. NASA says Orion will be safer than the shuttle
as the capsule will stand atop a rocket, reducing the risk of damage from debris
Orion is named for one of the brightest, most familiar and
easily identifiable constellations. Many of its stars have been used for
navigation and guided explorers to new worlds for centuries.
Orion Spacecraft resembles a larger version of the Apollo module
that last took men to the Moon in 1972. Orion's first flight with astronauts
onboard is planned for no later than 2014 to the
Station. Its first flight to the moon is planned for no later than 2020 and
to Mars in the
Unlike the Shuttle, which which flies back to Earth, lands on a runway and
can make dozens of flights, Orion will not be reusable. It will be launched into
space on a multi-stage rocket named
Ares I, which is scheduled to make its first
test flight in 2009.
After completing its mission, the capsule will return to Earth by parachute,
in the same way as the Apollo capsule. There, however, the similarities mostly
end. Orion will take six men into orbit, and be capable of landing as many as
four on the Moon. Like the Shuttle it will be able to carry equipment and
supplies to the space station.
The new spacecraft uses the basic and proven Apollo design, however it will
have superior electronics and computer technology - leading some Nasa
officials to call the project "Apollo on steroids".
NASA has picked a group led by US aerospace
company Lockheed Martin Corp as the prime contractor to design, develop, and
build the NASA Orion Spacecraft, America's spacecraft for a new generation of
Orion will be capable of transporting four crew members for
lunar missions and later supporting crew transfers for Mars missions. Orion
could also carry up to six crew members to and from the International Space
Station. Orion will form a key element of extending a sustained human presence
beyond low-Earth orbit to advance commerce, science and national leadership. The
capsule will replace the aging, three-shuttle fleet that is set to retire in
Orion will be 16.5 feet in diameter and have a mass of about 25
tons. Inside, it will have more than 2.5 times the volume of an Apollo capsule.
The spacecraft will return humans to the moon to stay for long periods as a
testing ground for the longer journey to Mars.
Manufacturing and integration of the vehicle
components will take place at contractor facilities across the USA. Lockheed
Martin will perform the majority of the Orion vehicle engineering work at NASA's
Johnson Space Center, Houston, and complete final assembly of the vehicle at the
Kennedy Space Center, Florida. All 10 NASA centers will provide technical and
engineering support to the Orion project.
The Lockheed Martin Orion program office is located in Houston, Texas,
co-located with NASA's Johnson Space Center, providing support in the areas of
program management, requirements development, software development, avionics,
human factors, and system qualification testing. Large structures and composites
will be built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. Final
assembly, checkout and acceptance testing of Orion for both the Crew Module and
Service Module will be performed in the Operations and Checkout facility at
NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, manages the Constellation Program and the
agency's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Exploration
Launch Projects' office for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate,
Orbital to Build Orion
Orbital Sciences Corporation which develops small space and
rocket systems for the government and military will be a subcontractor for Lockheed
Martin Corporation in the Orion manned spacecraft project. The deal is worth
$250 million over five years. The company will design, build and test a new
launch-abort system that will rescue astronauts in an emergency during launch
operations as the Orion vehicle heads for orbit. Orbital will also conduct safety and reliability analyses
for the entire project.
Aerojet, a GenCorp Inc. unit that specializes in missile
and space propulsion will provide the main engine and a cluster of maneuvering
engines for the service module of the Orion crew exploration vehicle and also supply a rocket that allows soft landings.
1. NASA began working in July 2005 with the two contractor teams:
Northrop Grumman/Boeing and Lockheed Martin to perform concept
refinement, trade studies, analysis of requirements and preliminary design
options. Lockheed Martin will be responsible for the design, development,
testing, and evaluation (DDT and E) of the new spacecraft.
Lockheed Martin will be responsible for the design, development, testing, and
evaluation of the new spacecraft. The process is expected to last from Sept. 8,
2006 to Sept. 7, 2013. The initial phase is estimated at 3.9 billion dollars.
2. NASA selected on
the 31st August 2006
Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor to design, develop, and build Orion,
America's spacecraft for a new generation of explorers. The contract with
Lockheed Martin is the conclusion of a two-phase selection process. Lockheed
Martin beat out a group that included Northrop Grumman and Boeing for the
Lockheed said the project will generate as many as 2,300 jobs, including some
600 engineers at its Denver space facility alone. That could prompt a secondary
loss for Boeing, because some of its engineers could be lured away to work on
Did you know?
* NASA decided to retire its winged
Space Shuttle fleet by 2010 to meet
President George W. Bush's vision for space exploration following the 2003
Columbia shuttle tragedy. The Space Shuttle is only designed for low Earth orbit
* The Orion name has been used in other space projects. Orion was the name of the lunar module of the Apollo 16 manned
mission to the moon in 1972. Project Orion was a study for a spacecraft powered by nuclear pulse
propulsion in the 1950's.
* In June, NASA announced the launch vehicles under development by the
Constellation Program have been named Ares, a synonym for Mars. The booster that
will launch Orion will be called Ares I, and a larger heavy-lift launch vehicle
will be known as Ares V.
* The last time NASA awarded a manned spaceship contract to Lockheed Martin was in 1996 for
space plane that was supposed to replace the space shuttle. NASA spent $912
million and never got
built because of technical problems and was cancelled in 2001.
* Nasa's timetable calls for a Moon landing by 2020 - almost half a century
after the Apollo 17 mission of December 1972, when men landed on the Moon for
the last time. Some time after that, Orion might attempt to travel to Mars in
the first manned mission to another planet in the solar system.
Picture above shows what it might look like when an Orion crew vehicle
is launched on Ares 1 rocket.