Test Version Of The Proposed Spacecraft Donated To The Museum
Endeavour isn't the only spacecraft destined for a museum in the near future, though admittedly this one has not yet carried astronauts into space. NASA and the Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC) announced Thursday that a full-scale test version of NASA's Orion spacecraft will become part of the center's permanent collection. The 18,000-pound Orion test vehicle, built at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, was used in the successful Pad Abort-1 test of Orion's launch abort system in May 2010. The abort system is designed to enhance the safety of the crew by providing an escape capability from the launch pad through ascent.
"We are thrilled to become the permanent home for this full-scale test version of NASA's Orion spacecraft," said Brian DeProfio, Interim Director of the VASC. "As the visitor center for NASA's Langley Research Center, this is an ideal way for us to share the NASA story and showcase the latest in NASA technology."
The VASC offers more than 100 interactive exhibits that detail NASA's historic achievements, including the Apollo 12 command module and a moon rock retrieved during the Apollo 17 mission. Orion has been on display at the VASC since May 2012 and has been seen by more than 100,000 guests. Located in the center's main gallery next to the Apollo 12 command module, visitors have a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the past and future of human spaceflight.
Orion will be the most advanced spacecraft ever designed and carry astronauts farther into space than ever before. It will provide emergency abort capability, sustain astronauts during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space.
Orion will fly its first orbital test flight, Exploration Flight Test 1, in 2014. During the test, the spacecraft will travel more than 3,600 miles into space -- 15 times farther from Earth than the International Space Station -- and reach speeds of more than 20,000 mph before returning to Earth. This unmanned test flight will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It is designed to test several Orion systems, including the heat shield and parachutes at speeds generated during a return from deep space.
In 2017, Orion will be launched by NASA's Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS will enable new missions of exploration and expand human presence across the solar system.
(Orion prototype images provided by NASA)