NASA Calls The CEV Orion
Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - AeroSpaceNews.com - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has decided to call the new crew exploration vehicle Orion.
The flagship of NASA's Constellation program to return to the moon and onward to Mars, the Orion spacecraft will eventually replace the Space Shuttle.
A NASA statement claims that Orion will fly with astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014, while the moon mission will follow in 2020.
NASA says the new spaceship is named for the Orion Constellation, one of the most well known astronomical bodies. "Many of its stars have been used for navigation and guided explorers to new worlds for centuries," said Orion Project Manager Skip Hatfield. "Our team, and all of NASA - and, I believe, our country - grows more excited with every step forward this program takes. The future for space exploration is coming quickly."
According to NASA, Orion will be capable of transporting cargo and up to six crewmembers to and from the ISS. It can carry four crewmembers for lunar missions. Later, it will support crew transfers for Mars missions.
The Orion spacecraft borrows its shape from earlier capsules, but will incorporate the latest technology in computers, electronics, life support, propulsion and heat protection systems, says NASA.
The space agency says the capsule's conical shape is the safest and most reliable for re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, especially at the velocities required for a direct return from the moon.
The specifications for the Orion vehicle call for a spaceship 16.5 feet in diameter and a mass of about 25 tons. Inside, it will have more than 2.5 times the volume of an Apollo capsule. The spacecraft will return humans to the moon to stay for long periods as a testing ground for the longer journey to Mars.