Friday, January 13, 2012
NASA Weighs Missions for Orion
An Orion prototype at the Dryden Flight Research Center in June 2011. Image source: NASA.
Aviation Week reports that NASA is discussing potential missions for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
“If you step back and think of what we’re doing, we’re looking at a capability — both SLS [the heavy-lift Space Launch System] and MPCV/Orion — that can support multiple destinations,” says William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations. “So instead of optimizing or building a vehicle that just supports one particular mission, we’re trying to look at a vehicle that has enough flexibility without carrying a huge penalty for that flexibility, that can support multiple missions and multiple destinations.”
Inside NASA, Gerstenmaier and other top managers are giving serious consideration to pulling modules from the International Space Station (ISS) when it is retired after 2020 and moving them to one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points or to lunar orbit as an early destination for Orion. The idea has some international support as the ISS partnership begins to consider post-station human spaceflight (AW&ST Oct. 10, 2011, p. 46).
The article notes ideas such as detaching an International Space Station module to place at a Lagrangian Point, missions to the dark side of the Moon, and perhaps a 900-day trip to Mars in the 2030s.