May 25, 2011

NASA Announces New Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle

NASA said on Tuesday that a new spacecraft to take humans into deep space will be based on designs of the Orion crew exploration vehicle.

The Orion capsule is a surviving component of the Constellation manned space exploration program that President Barack Obama scrapped last year for being behind schedule and over budget.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden said the designs for Orion would be used to push ahead with a new spacecraft known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which would lift off aboard a massive rocket.

"We are committed to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there," Bolden said in a statement released ahead of a press conference.
He said Congress' NASA Authorized Act "lays out a clear path forward for us by handing off transportation to the International Space Station to our private sector partners, so we can focus on deep space exploration."

"As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track."

Lockheed Martin Corporation, who is building the spacecraft, is shooting for the MPCV to carry four astronauts on 21-day missions into deep space.

NASA said the spacecraft is designed to be "10 times safer during ascent and entry."

The space shuttle program is due to be grounded at the end of the year, leaving NASA to depend on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to deliver astronauts to the space station.

"This selection does not indicate a business as usual mentality for NASA programs," Douglas Cooke, associate administrator for the US space agency's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.

"The Orion government and industry team has shown exceptional creativity in finding ways to keep costs down through management techniques, technical solutions and innovation."


Image Caption: Artist's rendering of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on a deep space mission. Credit: NASA


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