The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV) was initially set to launch in 2021, but NASA officials were a little sceptical as to whether they would be prepared by that time. The decision was mainly taken because of NASA’s past of running into unanticipated problems on a short notice, when working with new programs.
NASA officials decided to set the official launch date to 2023, but said that year 2021 was still a possibility, depending on how things worked out.
Orion will be sent into space in order to explore Mars. The capsule measures eleven foot and it will be launched off of the Space Launch System (SLS), a mega rocket that is currently under development. NASA scheduled a test flight for Orion and the Space Launch System in 2018. Orion had its first test flight last December.
“It’s not a very high confidence level, I’ll tell you that, just because of the things we’ve seen historically pop up,” said Robert Lightfoot, an associate administrator at NASA. According to Lightfoot there are still too many things that need to be taken into consideration and that need to be analysed in order for the spacecraft to be launched in 2021.
NASA has spent an impressive amount of money on the Orion spaceship, $4.7 billion, and will spend another estimate of $6.7 billion until the day of the launch in 2023. Four astronauts are able to fit into the capsule. Orion’s first flight with astronauts on board will be close to Earth in order to see how the systems react, specifically the life-support equipment.
William H. Gerstenmaier, an associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate at NASA, stated that Orion’s second mission will go deeper into space, possibly exploring the dark side of the moon. An asteroid may be another possible target. The area around the moon could be a perfect testing ground for annual missions, Gerstenmaier added.
NASA’s goal is to get the private aerospace companies from the United States, such as Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), to start bringing American astronauts in 2017. Russia will be transporting the astronaut crews until then.
This is NASA’s most recent spacecraft for humans, which comes after the space-shuttles that have already been withdrawn.
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