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December 8, 2014

Orion Spacecraft accomplishes first spaceflight test

Orion Spacecraft accomplishes first spaceflight test

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Monday, December 8, 2014

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The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

NASA has finally accomplished its first spaceflight with the new Orion spacecraft, uncrewed, on Friday morning. The spacecraft has now traveled farther from the Earth than any other spacecraft designed to carry a crew has traveled in over four decades.

The Orion crew module was launched off from Space Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida mounted on top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. Four and a half hours later, the space module landed in the Pacific Ocean.

During the mission, the spacecraft reached an altitude of 3,600 miles (5800 kilometers) and experienced periods of intense radiation when traveling twice through the Van Allen belt. Upon re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere, Orion achieved speeds of 20,000 miles per hour (32,000 kilometers per hour) and temperatures reached 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2200 degrees Celsius).

NASA has reported the entire spacecraft remained in one piece, with all the onboard computers still working despite the high radiation in the Van Allen belt. All the parachutes deployed without incident.

NASA said this is the farthest spacecraft have flown since the Apollo 17 mission 42 years ago, opening up new human explorations of space and getting closer to the goal of putting people on Mars.

Had astronauts been on board Orion, they would have experienced 8.2 times the force of gravity on Earth, NASA said.

Astronaut Rex Walheim, of the last Space Shuttle mission, talked about future crewed Mars missions and becoming “a multi-planetary species”.

The Orion program manager hopes NASA will look at information from this spaceflight and apply it to the next Orion spacecraft, to be launched by the Space Launch System rocket.


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October 1, 2010

NASA\’s new space capsule to be ready for test flights by 2013

NASA’s new space capsule to be ready for test flights by 2013

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Space
Related stories
  • 30 January 2015: Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy
  • 11 January 2015: SpaceX launches fifth resupply rocket to International Space Station
  • 10 January 2015: Researchers say light signal from space suggests merging black holes
  • 8 December 2014: Orion Spacecraft accomplishes first spaceflight test
  • 13 November 2014: Philae space probe lands on comet

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Artist’s impression of NASA’s new Orion capsule.
Image: NASA.

NASA’s Space Shuttle replacement, the Orion spacecraft, is anticipated to be ready for test flights by 2013.

Orion, part of the original Constellation program proposal, would be used in a NASA initiative to return astronauts to the moon. However, United States president Barack Obama cancelled the program in his 2011 budget. He instead advised NASA to focus on a manned mission to an asteroid, and then to Mars.

Obama supports the development of the capsule only as an emergency escape ‘lifeboat’ for the International Space Station.

The end of the Space Shuttle program will see many contractors out of work. The United States Congress is debating a bill to add one more shuttle mission in the gap between the currently scheduled last shuttle mission and the first manned flight of the capsule, in order to alleviate concerns over job loss and the gap between the end of shuttle missions and the entry into service of a replacement American vehicle.

Despite uncertainty about the future and usage of Orion, Lockheed Martin, the craft’s manufacturer, continues to work on it and plans to have a fully-operational model ready by the end of 2012. The company is also drawing up flight plans for possible missions.

In the original Constellation program proposal, the capsule would have been used to transport a six-member crew to and from the International Space Station, and a four-member crew on trips to the moon. Although Obama’s newly proposed plan involves missions to asteroids and eventually Mars, Lockheed Martin officials still believe that Orion would be a prime candidate for the job.

“It’s possible to make Orion compatible with other launch vehicles,” said Josh Hopkins, a Lockheed Martin official. “It doesn’t actually look all that hard.”



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April 16, 2010

US unveils revived space exploration program

US unveils revived space exploration program

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Friday, April 16, 2010

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US President Barack Obama unveiled on Thursday plans for the future of American space exploration, committing to sending American astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s.

President Obama spoke in the Operations and Checkout Building, where Apollo spacecraft were once prepared for flights to the Moon.
Image: NASA/Jim Grossmann.

The president was speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a speech to lay out his plans for the future of American space agency NASA. His comments included assurances that America was not abandoning space exploration, contrary to claims he was doing so after he announced the US’s budget for 2011, which would have ended most of NASA’s current projects, including the development of new heavy-launch rockets called the Constellation Program.

Cquote1.svg Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn, operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite Cquote2.svg

—US President Barack Obama

Under Obama’s latest program, NASA would receive US $6 billion as supplementary funding over the next five years to develop new projects, which Obama emphasized, saying NASA was in the unusual position of having an expanded budget while other government agencies must comply to financial restrictions or cuts in efforts to reduce the US public debt. With the additional funding, NASA would extend the life of the International Space Station (ISS) by four years further, to at least 2020, design a new series of heavy-lift rockets by 2015, and continue development of the Orion crew capsule, a major part of the Constellation program. Initially, the capsule would serve only as a rescue vehicle for the ISS, but would later serve as the “technological foundation for advanced spacecraft to be used in future deep space missions.” The proposed project would also retain plans for private operators to service the ISS, despite criticism that such operators were not reliable enough for the task.

The centerpiece of the plan would be manned missions to the moon and beyond, beginning with missions to asteroids around 2025, with missions to Mars following within a decade. Initially, Mars missions would consist of sending humans to orbit Mars, with missions to land on the surface of the planet coming shortly after. Obama said that under the plan, “we will push the boundaries not only of where we can go but what we can do.”

Obama said that under his new plan, NASA would be able to achieve more in a shorter amount of time than it would have under the Constellation Program. He also said that, contrary to fears that changes in NASA would result in job losses in Florida, where most space missions are launched from, under his new plan, a total of 2,500 jobs would be created in the area.

The new plan would, according to Obama, lead to “major breakthroughs” in the US space program. He said that the goal of the new program would be “no longer just a destination to reach. Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn, operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.” The president also emphasized the need for continued innovation, saying that “we’ve got to do it [space exploration] in a smart way and we can’t just keep on doing the same old things we’ve been doing and thinking that’s going to get us where we want to go.”



Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Barack Obama space policy speech at Kennedy Space Center
  • Wikisource-logo.svg President Barack Obama on Space Exploration in the 21st Century

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October 29, 2009

NASA completes successful test flight of new Ares IX rocket

NASA completes successful test flight of new Ares IX rocket

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ares I on its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.
Image: NASA.

NASA completed the first successful space flight of the new Ares I-X rocket yesterday. After delaying the launch 24 hours because of poor weather, Ares lifted off at 11:30 (EDT) in the morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The 327-foot tall Ares I-X test vehicle produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust to accelerate the rocket to nearly 3 g’s and Mach 4.76 — just shy of hypersonic speed. It capped its easterly flight at a sub-orbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation of its first stage, a four-segment solid rocket booster. After reaching an altitude of about 40 km, the first stage separates from the launch vehicle. The second stage was very brief, reaching around 46,000 metres, before an uncontrolled descent. The Orion capsule model should splash down approximately 230 nautical miles from the launch site. The first stage booster from the test descended for recovery using a parachute braking system.

Ares flight plan.
Image: NASA.

“This is a huge step forward for NASA’s exploration goals. Ares I-X provides NASA with an enormous amount of data that will be used to improve the design and safety of the next generation of American spaceflight vehicles — vehicles that could again take humans beyond low Earth orbit,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C..

The Ares I is a new rocket developed under the Constellation program, part of the Vision for Space Exploration announced in 2004 by then-president George W. Bush. Derived from a booster used on the current United States Space Shuttle, it should help to lift the Orion spacecraft carrying people and supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket with Orion is also planned to lift the crew to Altair lunar landing module, which will be lifted into orbit using the Ares V heavy-lift rocket.



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