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.
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 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
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
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.