NASA Prepares the Orion Spacecraft for Deep Space Exploration

orion space module

NASA is planning to send a manned mission in deep space using the Orion spacecraft in 2021.

In order to bring humans closer to living on Mars, NASA engineers have developed the Orion space module. The mission that is planned for August 2021 will take humans into space further than ever before. However, in order to ensure the systems are working without a hitch, the space agency will first test the Orion spacecraft on the ground and later on send it flying towards the moon.

The initial test campaign will include a series of systems demonstrations aboard the International Space Station, test flights, and ground tests in order to prepare for landing a manned mission on the surface of Mars. The flight is set for August 2021 and the Orion spacecraft will take off from the Kennedy Space Center located in Florida. Even though NASA has yet to determine the crew size, the scientists expect to send up to four astronauts in the Orion space module to Mars.

Leaving the Earth’s Atmosphere Scenario

Orion’s mission plan consists of several stages and includes a free return strategy from the moon. First, the spacecraft will circle the Earth twice while firing its engines periodically in order to build up enough thrust to send it flying to the moon.

During the first stage, Orion will orbit the Earth at 100 nautical miles. The duration of the first cycle is estimated to be 90 minutes. After the spacecraft completes its first orbit, the rocket’s upper stage and the extremely powerful four engines will engage in an orbital raise. As a consequence, the Orion will enter its second stage of deep space exploration, where it will orbit the Earth between 500 and 20,000 nautical miles above.

Before heading for the moon, the crew will perform a series of tests on Orion’s critical systems. After everything is set, the spacecraft will begin its journey to the moon.

Returning Home

Instead of using the engines to provide the thrust in order to bring back Orion, the engineers at NASA have come up with a way to use the moon’s gravitational force to act like a slingshot. However, the crew will have to travel several thousands of miles beyond the moon, which will put the Orion at approximately 230,000 miles away from Earth.

The initial series of tests for the Orion spacecraft is set for late 2018. Also, the preliminary tests will not feature human personnel.

Image Source: Pixabay

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