Thursday, September 3, 2009

Orion passes Preliminary Design Review

By now, a familiar artist's conception of Orion, notional successor to both Apollo and the U.S. Space Shuttle under development since 2004, in orbit around the Moon... someday... [NASA 2008]

The heart of what, until Congress says different, is the next manned spacecraft for NASA after the retirement of the Space Shuttle next year, has passed its Preliminary Design Review, a necessary goal on its present planned pathway toward a launch still slated for late 2015.

Orion, which shares mostly only the appearance of an Apollo command and service module (1969-1972) combination, passed it's PDR as tests continue in preparation for the launch of Ares 1-X, a prototype of the Ares I manned booster, and firing of a longer and more powerful Solid Rocket Booster than is presently used on the Space Shuttle, before the end of the present U.S. federal fiscal year, September 30.

Further development awaits a review of the U.S. Review of Human Spaceflight Committee report by the President and Congress, not expected to be made fully public before Sept. 15.

The PDR is an essential engineering assessment certifying the Orion concept is fit for manned spaceflight, and its completion clears the way for NASA to start to build the capsule for flight, if Congress agrees to continue funding.

"This is the successful culmination of all of the design trade studies and activities to date," said Mark Geyer, manager of the Orion Project Office at Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "As a project, a program and an agency, we are reviewing the design maturity, strategy and plans for NASA's next human spacecraft and agree this is the architecture we are going to build."

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