NASA -National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle


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.

Ares I Launch with OrionAres 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 bya J–2X engine. Ares I will carry Orion with its crew to Earth’s orbit.

Orion on Approach
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

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 Returns to Earth
Orion Returns to EarthOrion 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.


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Orion Featured Videos
Launch Abort System Launch Abort System / Computational Fluid Dynamics
NASA engineers rigorously test flight hardware in the real world, in labs and wind tunnels. They also use information about hardware from models developed with computer-based tools, such as CFD or Computational Fluid Dynamics.
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Pallet Vibration Testing Pallet Vibration Testing
In their ongoing work to develop the Orion launch vehicle service module, engineers and researchers of the NASA Glenn Pallet test team are working to reduce the effects of high acoustic loading, or pressure exerted on the test vehicle by high energy engine noise.
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ACE Engine Testing(A) ACE Engine Testing(A)
White Sands is partnering with the Glenn Research Center in performing the ACE engine test. ACE stands for attitude control engine.
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ACE Engine Testing(B)ACE Engine Testing(B)
White Sands is partnering with the Glenn Research Center in performing the ACE engine test. ACE stands for attitude control engine
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R4-D-11 rocket engine R4-D-11 rocket engine
NASA Glenn Research Center engineers are actively engaged with the Orion prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, and its subcontractor, Aerojet, in development testing of the R4-D-11 rocket engine planned for use on the Orion crew exploration vehicle.
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Radiator Stall Radiator Stall
NASA and its contractor team reanalyzed several new designs, and as a result of that analysis cycle, a new, commercially available radiator fluid has been chosen for Orion.
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Umbilical Connection Umbilical Connection
The NASA Glenn Research center in Cleveland, Ohio is assisting in the development of this umbilical connection and its release magnesium through studies taking place on a test stand at the lab.
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Vacco Valve Vacco Valve
As part of NASA's ongoing effort to develop the new Orion Crew Exploration vehicle, a propulsion team at the Glenn Research Center performed a series of vibration tests on a new variable speed, low mass, low leakage propellant isolation valve.
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