November 8, 2011
NASA Adding Unmanned Flight Test To Orion Spacecraft
NASA said on Tuesday that it plans to add an unmanned flight test of the Orion spacecraft in 2014 to its contract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
The space agency said this test supports the new Space Launch System (SLS) that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before.
"President Obama and Congress have laid out an ambitious space exploration plan, and NASA is moving out quickly to implement it," NASA Associate Administrator for Communications David Weaver said in a press release. "This flight test will provide invaluable data to support the deep space exploration missions this nation is embarking upon."
Orion will fly two orbits to a high-apogee, and then make a water landing and be recovered using operations planned for future human exploration missions.
NASA said the test mission will acquire critical re-entry flight performance data and demonstrate early integration capabilities that benefit the Orion, SLS and 21st Century Ground Systems programs.
"The entry part of the test will produce data needed to develop a spacecraft capable of surviving speeds greater than 20,000 mph and safely return astronauts from beyond Earth orbit," Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier said in a press release. "This test is very important to the detailed design process in terms of the data we expect to receive."
NASA is developing the Orion spacecraft to launch astronauts on deep space missions to targets like the moon, Mars and asteroids.
Image 2: The Orion MPCV ground test vehicle is prepared for the Launch Abort Vehicle Configuration Test at Lockheed Martin´s facilities in Denver, Colo. Credit: NASA
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