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Next-gen spacecraft on display in Florida

TWO OF THE NEXT GENERATION of space vehicles are going through their paces on the ground in Florida.

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle is seen in the photo below in the high bay of the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Centre, during a tour for media representatives.

Orion is the spacecraft designed to carry crews to space beyond low-Earth orbit. It will provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

In many respects, Orion is similar to the old Apollo command module, but with the ability of carry at least four astronauts (Apollo could carry only three).

It was announced only weeks ago, that the Orion service module will be provided by the European Space Agency, based upon its successful Automated Transfer Vehicle uncrewed cargo craft.

The first unpiloted test flight of the Orion is scheduled in 2014 atop a Delta IV rocket, and in 2017, on a Space Launch System rocket.

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle at the Kennedy Space Centre

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle at the Kennedy Space Centre

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, undergoing processing for the system’s second operational flight.

Meanwhile, the Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, Dragon spacecraft with solar array fairings attached, is seen inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The spacecraft will launch on the upcoming SpaceX CRS-2 mission, perhaps in March. The flight will be the second commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station by SpaceX.

NASA has contracted for a total of 12 commercial resupply flights from SpaceX and eight from the Orbital Sciences Corp.

Adapted from information issued by NASA. Photos by Frankie Martin and Kim Shiflett.

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Shuttle is dead — long live the MPCV

AS NASA CLOSES THE CHAPTER on the space shuttle programme, a new era of exploration vehicles is beginning to take off.

Testing began this month in the new Hydro Impact Basin at NASA’s Langley Research Centre, to certify the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for water landings.

The Orion MPCV will carry astronauts into space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and ensure safe re-entry and landing.

Engineers have dropped a 10-tonne MPCV mock-up into the basin. The test item is similar in size and shape to MPCV, but is more rigid so that it can withstand multiple drops.

Each test has a different drop velocity to represent the MPCV’s possible entry conditions during water landings.

The last of three drop tests to verify the new facility is scheduled for the end of this month.

Testing will resume in September with a slightly modified test article that is more representative of the actual MPCV.

The new Hydro Impact Basin is 35 metres long, 27 metres wide and 6 metres deep. It is located at the west end of Langley’s historic Landing and Impact Research Facility, or Gantry, where Apollo astronauts trained for moonwalks.

Here’s an overview video of the Orion MPCV programme:

http://youtu.be/ClupWQ6NdBM?hd=1

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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