Orion; The Next Generation
Have you ever thought about a new way to get into space? Now there is a new program that utilizes a reusable spacecraft. The name of this new program is Orion. Orion uses a pod ten times bigger than the Apollo missions. This pod can hold four to six astronauts for up to six weeks. Orion is different from the Space shuttle program because Orion is capable of deep space travel but the space shuttles were not.
Orion is designed to explore asteroids and Mars. By itself, the capsule is designed for a two to six week journey, but if the mission requires the capsule to stay in space longer, it can be equipped with a crew module that could support a crew for up to nine months. Orion will be launched with a variety of rockets that can lift different amounts of cargo. One rocket is the Falcon Heavy rocket that can lift 190 tons into outer space or thirty tons to mars. The Orion is equipped with a crew area and an area for cargo or vehicles. While in space the Orion capsule shoots of two protective plates and unfolds its solar panels to capture energy for the main systems and computer.
The Orion spacecraft will be launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The capsule will be launched from the SLS launch system( A system of rockets and rocket boosters that will bring Orion into space). The three rockets will blast the Orion module into low Earth orbit, and then the module will detach from the main rocket. The detached module will then fire its engines and bring the capsule out of Earth’s orbit. Next the module, nose cone, and rocket shell will detach from the Orion Capsule and smaller rocket pack. The rocket pack’s engines will only be used to boost Orion back to Earth. The command module will detach from the rockets and the module will fall back to Earth. Finally the parachutes will deploy and fall back to Earth, the capsule will be recovered by a US military vessel.
Orion went through its first test flight last year. The capsule used a Delta VI rocket to blast it into space. The Orion spacecraft went 3,600 miles above Earth’s atmosphere fifteen times higher than the space station! Nasa was testing the capsules main systems like the computer, environmental controls, and heat shields. The capsule passed through high amounts of radiation in flight but the main systems were not affected. While entering Earth the external temperature of the capsule reached over 4,000 degrees!
In the coming years Orion will bring man farther than ever before. The Orion spacecraft will let man travel to unknown regions of space and explore the unknown.