31 Dec '13, 11pm

NASA Readies Orion for First Test Flight

NASA Readies Orion for First Test Flight

NASA has found itself curiously earthbound of late. Since it retired the space shuttles in 2011, the U.S. space agency has had to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Russian rockets. But NASA has its sights set on targets well beyond low Earth orbit. And this September, the agency will make its first step toward getting astronauts there, with the first launch of an Apollo-inspired crew module called Orion [video]. This test drive won’t carry humans—or even seats, for that matter—but it will go a long way toward proving that the agency’s human exploration program is alive and well. The hope is that Orion and a new heavy-lift rocket, also in development, will be ready to send astronauts back into lunar orbit by 2021. That would be just shy of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 17, the last of NASA’s crewed moon missions. In many ways, Orion follows in Apoll...

Full article: http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/nasa-read...

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