News / Science & Technology

NASA Announces Next Generation Spacecraft

Artist's rendering of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on a deep space mission.
Artist's rendering of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on a deep space mission.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

NASA has unveiled plans for its next-generation, post-Shuttle spacecraft to carry humans into earth orbit and beyond.  The state-of-the-art, four-astronaut capsule, called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle or MPCV, builds on earlier designs for the Orion crew capsule. And the versatile new craft features an enhanced emphasis on crew safety.

NASA Associate Administrator Douglas Cooke says it made sense to stick with Orion, a survivor of the recently-cancelled Constellation program that had aimed to return astronauts to the moon.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on Orion. We have a ground test article that is a full structure with a lot of the systems actually installed into it for testing.  So, it’s well down the road.  It answers the requirements and represents a significant investment in that path at this point," he said.

The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle being assembled and tested at Lockheed Martin's Vertical Testing Facility in Colorado.
The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle being assembled and tested at Lockheed Martin's Vertical Testing Facility in Colorado.

The Obama Administration cancelled the Constellation program in 2010 because it was behind schedule and over budget. Tariq Malik is managing editor of Space.com, an online newsletter.  He says that while it could be used as a replacement for the retiring Space Shuttle fleet, that is not NASA’s intent.  Rather, Malik says, the redesigned capsule is the space agency’s all-purpose vehicle for a variety of missions beyond earth’s orbit.     

“Visiting satellites if it’s needed.  It’s going to have a spacewalk capability, which the original Orion capsule as it was prior to this announcement, would not have. And then they would be able to use it as the core vehicle, the transfer vehicle for deep space missions.  You know you would attach a module or some other kind of addition on to it if they are going to be up in space for extended excursions, and then they use it as their truck," he said.

The craft is designed for missions of 21 days. NASA’s Douglas Cooke says it will also be able to rendezvous with another, larger spaceship to continue its voyage to the Moon, Mars or beyond. “This vehicle would be just maintained in a more dormant mode, while the crew would be in another [spacecraft] which would have the longer term consumables and capabilities to support them," he said.

The capsule would then be on-call to take astronauts back to earth.  

The craft is also many times safer than the space shuttle.  Tarik Malik says the launch-abort system - rockets that would propel the capsule away from a malfunctioning launcher -- proved successful in tests last year in the Mojave Desert.  “It was flawless. And so they know that it works and they can build that into their system for whatever they need in terms of the rocket as well," he said.

While a lot of work remains to build an integrated system, including a rocket to launch the crew vehicle, Malik is encouraged that NASA and its aerospace industry partners are on the right course, with the goal of keeping America’s manned space program moving forward. “And they can use everything that they learned in the last five years in the previous program and re-purpose what they need to make that goal," he said.

NASA hopes to launch the new craft into Earth orbit within the next five years.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid