This is part two of the series on NASA's Constellation program, if you didn't read part one then here it is so that you can catch up. Today we will be discussing the Orion Crew Vehicle and all of the parts that come with it. Well let's go ahead and get right into it.
The Orion Vehicle is being designed to carry a crew of four to six astronauts, and will be launched by the Ares I rocket. It is scheduled to begin flights at the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015 with future flights to the International Space Station. Though flights to and from the ISS isn't Orion's main purpose, its primary function will be human missions to the Moon and Mars. The design of the Orion Vehicle is based heavily on the Apollo command module, with one of the major differences being that Orion can carry up to six passengers while Apollo could carry a max of three. You can see the Orion Vehicle's main components in the diagram.
The Orion Crew Module will be 5 meters by 3.3 meters, mass around 8.5 tonnes, and have an internal volume of 6 cubic meters. Orion will dock by means of the Low Impact Docking System, which is pretty much high tech USB port for spaceships.
The craft's service module will have a pair of deployable circular solar panels that replace the fuel cells that powered Apollo. Orion is propelled by an Aerojet (read more) AJ-10 rocket engine, derived from the second stage of the Delta II rocket. The closed-loop recycling system used will be identical to those units used on both the Mir and International Space Stations.
The abort system uses an abort motor, which is more powerful than the Atlas 109-D booster that launched astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962, that would clear the astronauts of any danger that may be threatening them. Now Orion has safely completed its mission and returns to Earth it has a new way of landing. It uses a combination of parachutes and either retrorockets or airbags for capsule recovery, this eliminates the expensive naval recovery. As I said earlier the craft should be in flight by 2014, and since NASA has this as one of its top priorities I think that it may actually be close to on time. Only time will tell. This crew vehicle has a lot of potential for Moon missions and especially for Mars missions; I just hope that it will fulfill that potential.
Now don't forget that tomorrow night we have a full lunar eclipse around 10:30pm EST. It should be a really amazing eclipse and it is the last one until 2010 so don't miss it!
Source: NASA.gov, Wikipedia.com
Image Source: Wikipedia.com