Orion spacecraft key to future space travel

Lockheed Martin’s
Orion space craft, designed to take astronauts to the moon, may first be used as an emergency escape vehicle for the international space station. By 2016, NASA wants to run multiple, deep-space missions to the moon and much farther destinations, making the Orion spacecraft key to future space travel.

“Orion was designed from inception to fly multiple, deep-space missions,” John Karas, vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin’s Human Space Flight programs told Computerworld.com.

The Orion spacecraft was first part of NASA’s Constellation program, slated to bring humans back to the moon by 2020 but budget cuts and behind-schedule, over-budget construction caused a refocus of the program. Now, the goal is sending astronauts to Mars and further into the solar system.

“The spacecraft is an incredibly robust, technically advanced vehicle capable of safely transporting humans to asteroids, Lagrange Points and other deep space destinations that will put us on an affordable and sustainable path to Mars” said Karas.

When the Space shuttle fleet is fully retired at the end of the year, Orion may be used as a means to evacuate astronauts from the International space station. The Orion spacecraft includes a crew module, a cargo transport, a service module for propulsion, electric power, fluids storage and a spacecraft adapter for securing it to the launch vehicle.

In 2009, Gadling reported on a NASA focused on commercial space travel with a plan to spend $50 million of economic stimulus cash from the feds into putting the average traveler into space. While the topic comes up from time to time, commercial space travel seems to be not much more than a dream. But if the Commercial Spaceflight Federation has anything to say about it, that dream will be a reality soon.

In a letter sent to Congress earlier this month, the federation notes:

“We are writing to urge you to fully fund NASA’s plan to use commercial companies to carry crew to the Space Station because it is critical to the health of the Nation’s human spaceflight efforts.”

They may just get their wish. With the space shuttle program coming to an end shortly, there are few alternatives to take man or supplies into space and an International Space Station up there that will need both.

Flickr photo by Bernt Rostad