Orion (spacecraft)

Orion with ATV SM.jpg
Artist's rendering of the Orion spacecraft
ManufacturerLockheed Martin
Country of originUnited States of America
ApplicationsBeyond LEO exploration[1]
Spacecraft typeSpace capsule
Design life21.1 days[2]
Launch massCapsule: 10,387 kg (22,899 lb)
Service module: 15,461 kg (34,086 lb)
Total: 25,848 kg (56,985 lb)
Crew capacity2–6[3]
Dimensions3.3 × 5 m (11 × 16 ft)
VolumePressurized: 19.56 m3 (691 cu ft)[4]
Habitable: 8.95 m3 (316 cu ft)
StatusIn production
First launchExploration Flight Test 1
December 5, 2014
Related spacecraft
Derived fromCrew Exploration VehicleATV

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV) is an American interplanetary spacecraft intended to carry a crew of four[4] astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). Currently under development by NASA[5] for launch on the Space Launch System,[6] Orion is intended to facilitate human exploration of the moon,[7] asteroids and of Mars and to retrieve crew or supplies from the International Space Station if needed.[8]

The Orion MPCV was announced by NASA on May 24, 2011, and is currently under development.[8] Its design is based on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle from the cancelled Constellation program.[9] It has two main modules. The Orion command module is being built by Lockheed Martin at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.[10] The Orion Service Module, provided by the European Space Agency,[11][12] is being built by Airbus Defence and Space.

The MPCV's first test flight (uncrewed), known as Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), was launched atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket on December 5, 2014, on a flight lasting 4 hours and 24 minutes, landing at its target in the Pacific Ocean at 10:29 Central[13][14][15][16] (delayed from the prior day due to technical and weather problems[17]). The first mission to carry astronauts is not expected to take place until 2023 at the earliest, although NASA officials have said that their staff is working toward an "aggressive internal goal" of 2021.[18] However, a July 2016 Government Accountability Office report cast doubt on even the 2023 launch date, suggesting it may slip up to six months.[19] The report gave only a 40% confidence in the 2021 launch date, and suggested the aggressive goal may be counterproductive to the program.


Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV)

Orion CEV design as of 2009.

On January 14, 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush announced the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) as part of the Vision for Space Exploration.[20] The CEV was partly a reaction to the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, the subsequent findings and report by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), and the White House's review of the American space program. The CEV effectively replaced the conceptual Orbital Space Plane (OSP), which was proposed after the cancellation of the Lockheed Martin X-33 program to produce a replacement for the space shuttle. As the Vision for Space Exploration was developed into the Constellation program under NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, the Crew Exploration Vehicle was renamed the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, after the stellar constellation of the same name.[21]

Constellation proposed using the Orion CEV in both crew and cargo variants to support the International Space Station and as a crew vehicle for a return to the Moon. The Apollo-like design included a service module for life support and propulsion and the crew/command module was originally intended to land on solid ground on the US west coast using airbags, but later changed to ocean splashdown.[22] The Orion CEV weighs about 23 tonnes, less than the 30 tonne Apollo command/service module. The crew module would weigh about 8.9 tonnes, greater than the equivalent Apollo command module at 5.8 tonnes. With a diameter of 5 metres as opposed to 3.9 metres, the Orion CEV would provide 2.5 times greater volume as compared to the Apollo CM.[23] The service module was originally planned to use liquid methane (LCH4) as its fuel, but switched to hypergolic propellants due to the infancy of oxygen/methane-powered rocket technologies and the goal of launching the Orion CEV by 2012.[24][25]

The Orion CEV design consisted of two main parts: a conical crew module (CM) and a cylindrical service module (SM) holding the spacecraft's propulsion system and expendable supplies. Both were based substantially on the Apollo command and service modules (Apollo CSM) flown between 1967 and 1975.[26]

The Orion CEV was to be launched on the Ares I rocket to low Earth orbit, where it would rendezvous with the Altair lunar surface access module (LSAM) launched on a heavy-lift Ares V launch vehicle for lunar missions.

Cancellation of Constellation program

Artist's conception of the Orion spacecraft as then designed in lunar orbit.

On May 7, 2009, the Obama administration enlisted the Augustine Commission to perform a full independent review of the ongoing NASA space exploration program. The commission found the then current Constellation Program to be woefully under-budgeted, behind schedule by four years or more in several essential components, with significant cost overruns, and unlikely to be capable of meeting any of its scheduled goals under its current budget.[27][28] As a consequence, the commission recommended a significant re-allocation of goals and resources. As one of the many outcomes based on these recommendations, on October 11, 2010, the Constellation program was cancelled, ending development of the Altair, Ares I, and Ares V. The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle survived the cancellation and was renamed the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), to be launched on the Space Launch System.[29]

Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV)

Through the program restructuring from Constellation to Post Constellation, the Orion development program moved from the development of three different versions of the Orion capsule, each for a different task,[30] to the development of a single version capable of performing multiple tasks.[4] On October 30, 2014, the somewhat redesigned Multi-Purpose spacecraft completed its first Flight Readiness Review (FRR), allowing the vehicle to be integrated with the Delta IV rocket and readied for launch. On December 5, 2014 it was successfully launched into space and retrieved at sea after splashdown on the Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), marking NASA's re-entry into the business of designing and producing new crewed spacecraft.[31][32]

Other Languages
Ελληνικά: Orion
lietuvių: Orion
norsk nynorsk: Romfartøyet «Orion»
Simple English: Orion (spacecraft)
српски / srpski: Орион (летелица)
татарча/tatarça: Orion (ğälämi qorab)
Tiếng Việt: Tàu Orion
ייִדיש: אריאן