Feeds

NASA deep-space ship gets 2014 unmanned test flight

'We're still going to the Moon, not listening to Obama'

Intelligent flash storage arrays

NASA has announced that it will test-fly its pork-tastic Orion spaceship, conceived under the Bush administration for the purpose of carrying astronauts to the Moon once more and now rebranded as a "deep space" vessel for trips to asteroids and perhaps one day Mars.

Concept pic showing Orion Crew Exporation Vehicle docked with a lander in lunar orbit. Credit: NASA

Apparently this is still on, according to NASA.

The agency said it would add an unmanned flight test of the craft in early 2014 to its contract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

"This test supports the new Space Launch System (SLS) that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before, create US jobs, and provide the cornerstone for America's future human spaceflight efforts," NASA said. However the SLS will not be ready in 2014 - indeed there are grave doubts as to whether the space agency can afford it at all - and the test will have to make use of an existing heavy lift rocket.

At present there is no rocket capable of carrying Orion and rated safe to lift astronauts (as opposed to unmanned kit) in the US armoury. However there may be by 2014: famous techbiz visionary Elon Musk says his upstart firm SpaceX will launch its Falcon Heavy, which is billed as man-rated, in "late 2013 or 2014.”

As Lockheed is part of United Launch Alliance, the monopoly which has provided almost all US space lift other than the shuttle in recent times, one can be fairly sure the Falcon Heavy won't be lifting the 2014 Orion. A ULA rocket such as the Delta IV Heavy would be more likely.

The 2014 flight test, dubbed EFT-1, will fly around the planet twice, before a high-energy re-entry through the atmosphere and a water landing. The agency said the ship would "be recovered using operations planned for future human exploration missions".

"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 canned statement.

"This test is very important to the detailed design process in terms of the data we expect to receive."

Another goal of the test is to help reduce the cost and schedule risks of exploration missions, the agency said.

Oddly, since US President Obama has said there will be no manned return to the moon, NASA stated today that the Orion spacecraft would eventually launch astronauts to the moon as well as to asteroids, Mars and other destinations. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.