Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crewed Orion Flight in 2016?

The first space-bound Orion MPCV under construction at the NASA Michoud facility in New Orleans. Photo source: NASA.

Aviation Week reports that a possible scenario might have astronauts loop around the Moon by 2016.

A 70-metric-ton version of the eventual, much larger SLS, perhaps fitted with a Boeing Delta 4 upper stage, could sling astronauts around the Moon in 2016, under a test flight scenario that Lockheed Martin has discussed with NASA. The demonstration mission would accelerate plans for the first human mission of the four-person MPCV by five years.

“As soon as possible, we will transition to flying our test flights on early versions of the SLS,” says Laurence Price, Lockheed Martin’s Orion deputy program manager. “We already know a lot about this vehicle, its environment, load conditions and trajectory. So we are accommodating the unique capability of the launch vehicle into the design of the Orion/MPCV. We are already converging on how this vehicle will fly.”

The article notes that an Orion test flight is scheduled for 2013. "Lockheed Martin has reserved a Delta 4 Heavy for the demanding unpiloted flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, though the choice of launchers is under evaluation."

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