Friday, October 14, 2011

Orion Test Flights at KSC in 2013

An artist's concept of the Orion MPCV on a Mars mission. Image source: NASA.

Florida Today reports that tests of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle could begin at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in 2013.

The space agency soon will decide which to launch first: an atmospheric re-entry test or a low-altitude emergency escape mission.

Regardless of the order, both unmanned flight tests will be launched from the Space Coast to certify the Apollo-style capsule for human expeditions beyond Earth orbit.

The first test is targeted for launch in late 2013 or early 2014. The second would follow in 2015 or 2016.

NASA spaceflight chief William Gerstenmaier was briefed this week on the two options. The atmospheric re-entry test might be flown first because the Orion capsule for that mission then could be re-used for the low-altitude abort test.

“Within the next two months, I expect him to make a choice,” said NASA Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer.

Aviation Week reported on September 28 that Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin had proposed a manned flight for the capsule around the Moon in 2016.

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