NASA's Orion Deep Space vehicle offers the exciting hope that an unmanned test launch will be moved up to two years from now. The vehicle, was originally scheduled for testing in 2017 and will eventually carry human passengers. The vehicle is also referred to as the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
During Exploration Flight Test 1, the goal will be to get to enough height to complete a two orbit spaceflight with the vehicle behaving as an unmanned robot. The vehicle will then reenter the atmosphere at an extremely high speed rate that would create the extremely super heated conditions that would be incurred after a trip into deep space. This test would bring the vehicle back to Earth at speeds that will be greater than 20,000 mph. Data will then be analyzed to see if the conditions will be safe enough for humans and for successful missions. The test is expected to cost about $370 million, which will be added on to NASA's current contract with Lockheed Martin.
A commercial rocket can be used to loft the vehicle high enough into space to complete the orbits and to come back at the highest velocity possible. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida will still be in business as the nation's favorite launch site. NASA's Kennedy Space Center will host the individuals who will be doing launch control.
There are between 10 and 16 systems that present the conditions for the biggest flight risks in terms of human survival and overall mission success. While the test will put all systems through their paces, these critical systems will truly have to perform well.
The Vehicle capsule has passed muster with NASA's Chief, Charles Bolden, according to Space.com. This is after Lockheed performed a group of tests of structural, acoustic and vibration issues that impact key components of the spaceship.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems is building the Orion Deep Space Vehicle based a lot of past experience with a capsule that was being developed for NASA's now defunct Constellation program. This system will be more powerful than the Saturn V moon rocket.
NASA's new Space Launch System was unveiled last September. This system will be a solid fuel LO2/LOX system that will go between 320 and 400 feet in height. The system will carry far more payload than the Space Shuttle, and will carry as much as the Saturn V in it's maximum configuration.
For more information about the Orion Multipurpose Crew or Deep Space Vehicle, visit NASA's website.