Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ORION : NASA's brand new space shuttle

Though the era of space shuttle came to an end, does it mean the end of America's domination in space ?. Before answering to this question lets have a look in to NASA's Orion project.

NASA explores for answers that power our future by building a new space exploration vehicle that will replace the shuttle. The new spacecraft is called Orion. Orion is part of the Constellation Program to send human explorers back to the moon and beyond.

Building on the best of Apollo and shuttle technology, NASA's creating a 21st century exploration system that will be affordable, reliable, versatile, and safe. Orion’s size will allow it to transport up to six crew members to the International Space Station (ISS). It will be able to rendezvous with a lunar landing module and an Earth departure stage in low Earth orbit to carry four crew members to the moon. In the future, Orion will rendezvous with Mars-bound vehicles in low Earth orbit to take explorers to Mars.

How It Works:

Ares I Launch with Orion

The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle will be launched into Earth’s orbit by the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle. To maximize the crew’s safety, Orion and its launch abort system will be placed at the top of the Ares I rocket. The Ares I first stage is a single, five-segment reusable solid rocket and its upper stage is powered by a J–2X engine. Ares I will carry Orion with its crew to Earth’s orbit.

Orion on Approach to ISS

The Orion spacecraft’s first task will be to provide access to the ISS. Orion can remain docked to the station for up to six months. Orion provides a means for the crew to return to Earth at any time. It will also be able to carry cargo and supplies to the space station.

Arrival in Lunar Orbit

For missions to the moon, Orion will dock with a lunar landing module and Earth departure stage in low Earth orbit. The Earth departure stage will propel Orion and the lunar lander to the moon. Once they have reached the moon’s orbit, astronauts will use the lunar landing craft to travel to the moon’s surface. Orion will stay in the lunar orbit awaiting the return of the crew. The astronauts return to the orbiting Orion using a lunar surface ascent module. When the crew has reunited with the Orion spacecraft, the service module main engine will provide the power that Orion needs to break out of the lunar orbit and head home to Earth.

Orion Returns to Earth

Orion will reenter the Earth’s orbit and return the crew safely to Earth. The service module supports the crew module until the two modules separate just before reentering Earth’s atmosphere. The Orion crew module will reenter Earth’s atmosphere, and with the use of parachutes and airbags, it will safely return the astronauts back to Earth.

Now you may decide the answer for the question in the beginning.

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