Friday, November 18, 2011

NASA Picks Delta 4 Heavy to Launch 2014 Orion Test

NASA’s funding through the recently proposed congressional budget compromise is proving to be a mixed bag for future manned space programs. The Commercial Crew Transportation development efforts received less than half of what the Obama administration had requested.
But looking past low earth orbit efforts, the prospects seem good that NASA will conduct a 2014 test flight of their Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), also known as Orion. But the flight won’t be flown using the currently proposed Space Launch System, but rather using a Delta 4 Heavy, which would cost the agency about $370 million.
Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats told Space News on Nov.17:
“We’ll know by next May whether we’re going to be able to find the money to do this and make a commitment,” Coats said. He also said the flight would be paid for out of the MPCV budget. “[W]e can’t take it out of SLS,” he said, referring to the budget for Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket the agency has been directed by Congress to build.
Coats spoke with Space News here after testifying before the Senate Commerce science and space subcommittee. He was part of a panel that also included the directors of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Johnson, Kennedy and Marshall are responsible for developing and launching the Space Launch System (SLS) and MPCV.
Coats told lawmakers that he thought NASA was getting “a pretty reasonable deal” on the Delta 4 Heavy launch.
NASA said Nov. 8 that it wanted to stage a test flight of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft also known as Orion, in 2014 — about three years before the Space Launch System is scheduled to make its maiden flight.

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