Orion (spaceship)

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Orion logo
Use: Earth / Moon / Mars / Asteroid orbit
Launcher: Delta IV Heavy (on first and unmanned flight)
Space Launch System
Crew: up to 4 people
First flight: December 5, 2014 (unmanned orbital flight)
2021 (unmanned moon flight, expected)
2022 Template: future / in 2 years(manned moon flight, planned)
Status: Test phase
Operation area: Transportation of people to the ISS, the moon, Mars or an asteroid
Height: ≈ 3.3 m
Diameter: ≈ 5 m
Volume under pressure: 19.55 m³ (≈ 3 × Apollo)
Rescue system (LAS): 7,062 kg
Crew module (CM): 8,913 kg (moon) / 9,706 kg (ISS)
Service module (SM): 12,336 kg (moon) / 8,807 (ISS)
Missile adapter: 1,639 kg
Total: 29,950 kg (moon) / 27,214 kg (ISS)
Rescue system (LAS) (?) ?
Service module ( N 2 O 4 / MMH ) 27 kN (OMS of the shuttle)
Backup: 8 * 0.4 kN (from ATV)
Orion CEV Design 2009
Orion CEV Design 2009
NASA's Orion spacecraft being loaded in December 2013

The Orion MPCV (formerly known as Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle ( MPCV )) is a US manned spacecraft from NASA that is being built in cooperation with ESA . This was designed and partially developed as part of the Constellation program and the ESAS study, first under the name Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and then Orion CEV , and is intended to transport cargo and people to the ISS , to the moon (analogous to the Apollo spacecraft ) and serve to Mars (as a spaceship feeder and landing). In 2010 the Constellation program including the Orion spaceship was canceled, but in 2011 it was announced that the spaceship would again be planned for ISS, lunar, Mars and asteroid flights under its current name. Its first manned flight to the moon is Template: future / in 2 yearsplanned for 2022 .

The name of the spaceship was accidentally disclosed by the astronaut Jeffrey Williams , who was in space at the time , and was subsequently confirmed by NASA. The name was chosen based on one of the brightest star constellations, which was also used for navigation, the constellation Orion .

Original planning

The development was divided into so-called spiral phases.

  • Exploration Spiral 1 ( CEV Earth Orbit Capability ): Development of a manned spacecraft for use in low earth orbit by 2014 in preparation for the moon flight.
  • Exploration Spiral 2 ( Extended Lunar Exploration ): Landing and subsequent stay of humans on the moon for at least four days (2015 to 2020).
  • Exploration Spiral 3 ( Long Duration Lunar Exploration ): Longer (up to a few months) lunar missions to serve as a test for later Mars flights (after 2020).
  • Exploration Spiral 4 ( Crew Transportation System Mars Flyby ): Mars flyby (after 2020).
  • Exploration Spiral 5 ( Human Mars Surface Campaign ): Manned Mars landing (after 2020).

The CEV had been in the drafting phase since 2004. In 2005, the industrial design concepts were handed over to NASA, after which NASA selected the concepts from Lockheed Martin and a team formed by Northrop Grumman and Boeing for further development. The original plan was to finance these two concepts until 2008, with an unmanned test flight with prototypes of both spacecraft taking place in 2008. After the results of the development and the test flights, it should be decided which concept should be pursued further.

However, NASA later announced that it would strive for the CEV to be operational by 2010. The aim was to keep the gap between the end of the shuttle program and the start of the CEV flights as short as possible or even avoid it entirely. Therefore, and in order to save money, the follow-up to two projects was canceled, as was the test flight of unmanned models of the spaceship. In November 2005 NASA published the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), which contains the precise requirements and mission profiles for the CEV. On August 31, 2006, NASA announced that Lockheed Martin had been selected to build the Orion spacecraft.

NASA planned to develop the Orion spacecraft according to the following schedule:

  • 2011 - The spacecraft's first unmanned flight into orbit.
  • 2014 - First manned flight into Earth orbit.
  • 2014 - First unmanned flight of the lunar ship.
  • 2015 - First manned flight of the lunar ship.
  • 2018 - First manned moon landing of the lunar ship.


In early May 2005, details of the project proposed by Lockheed Martin became known. This project saw the development of a space shuttle with the supporting body (Engl. Lifting body ) for four to six astronauts, who on top of a conventional rocket to be launched into space. The landing was planned with the help of parachutes and airbags . Parts of the spaceship should be reusable. In the case of a lunar mission, a mission module and a propulsion stage would also have to be added with the fuel and the engines, which would have been launched with their own launch vehicle and later docked to the CEV. The complete moon train consisting of the CEV, the mission module and the drive stage should weigh around 40 t.

After the ESAS study was published, Lockheed rejected the lifting body approach and also submitted a concept based on a landing capsule. All that is known about Boeing's discarded concept is that from the start it was a landing capsule approach that adhered very closely to the ideas of the ESAS documents.

The era since President Obama

Due to an announcement by President Barack Obama at the beginning of 2010 that he would no longer support the Constellation program , the continuation of the Orion concept and its developments were uncertain. In January 2011, NASA submitted a report to Congress containing a proposal for the fulfillment of duties relating to the NASA Authorization Act 2010: The Orion CEV should continue to operate under the name Orion MPCV and the Space Launch System (SLS) should become its launcher.

In 2014, the Exploration Flight Test 1 was the first unmanned test flight into space. The test service module was manufactured by Lockheed Martin. In July 2019 a test of the rescue system ( in-flight abort test ) was carried out on a special variant of the Minotaur rocket .

European service module

The European space agency ESA is supplying a central part of the spaceship, the European Service Module (ESM), which provides propulsion, air conditioning and the supply of electricity, water and breathing air, and would like to "swap" European astronauts with it. The module is being built at Airbus Defense and Space (formerly Astrium ) in Bremen and is technically based on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) previously manufactured there . In November 2015, the first test module from Europe arrived in the USA with an Antonov An-124 .

In June 2015 it became known that NASA is making one of the Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering Systems (OMS) available to ESA for further use in the EM-1 service module. This OMS had previously been used in 19 shuttle missions. In 2017, the use of up to four such units was negotiated.

At the beginning of November 2018, the service module for the first flight to the moon (EM-1) of the Orion spacecraft was flown from Bremen to the Kennedy Space Center / USA.

Mission overview

The list contains the current planning status of the NASA administration, which is still being discussed and whose funding is only considered secured until the EM-2 mission. A final decision on this will be made with the decision of the US legislature on the 2019/2020 budget (starting in October 2019). For an overview of the missions originally planned for Orion, but discarded after the Constellation program was discontinued, see List of Constellation Missions .

Abbreviation Mission name Start date ( UTC ) crew rocket Duration Mission Profile Remarks
EFT-1 Exploration Flight Test 1 December 5, 2014
4:29 PM
unmanned Delta IV Heavy 4 hours, 24 minutes Flight test of Orion in orbit of Earth success
AA-2 In-flight abort test July 2, 2019
11:00 am
unmanned ATB about 3 minutes Test of the rescue system in flight success
EM-1 Artemis 1 2021 at the earliest unmanned SLS block I 7-10 days Unmanned test flight to the moon planned
EM-2 Artemis 2 2022 Template: future / in 2 years(planned) 4th SLS block I The first Orion mission with astronauts, orbiting the moon planned
EM-3 Artemis 3 2024 Template: future / in 4 years(planned) probable 4 SLS block I Manned landing in the southern lunar pole region planned
EM-4 and following Artemis 4 and following annually from 2025Template: future / in 5 years SLS block I Manned missions to the moon planned

Picture gallery

See also

Web links

Commons : Orion  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b M. Braukus, B, Dickey, K. Humphries: NASA Names New Crew Exploration Vehicle Orion. NASA , August 22, 2006, accessed April 3, 2011 .
  2. ^ Eric Berger: NASA to perform key test of the SLS rocket, necessitating a delay in its launch. In: Ars Technica. April 26, 2019, accessed on April 30, 2019 (Half a year was estimated for the Green Run Test, which was supposed to be canceled in 2020 [1] .).
  3. NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study - Final Report (Section 1.4). (PDF; 25.1 MB) NASA , November 2005, accessed on April 17, 2011 (English).
  4. ^ Robert Z. Pearlman: NASA Confirms New Moon Vehicle is Orion. (PDF) space.com, August 23, 2006, accessed April 17, 2011 .
  5. NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study - Final Report , NASA (November 2005)
  6. Lockheed is to build the "Orion" , heise online, September 1, 2006
  7. NASA Receives Crew Exploration Vehicle Proposals , article from SPACE.com (English), May 3, 2005
  8. Davin Coburn: Lockheed Unveils Shuttle Replacement - Lockheed Martin unveils its proposed space shuttle replacement. Popular Mechanics, June 1, 2005, accessed January 21, 2020 .
  9. ^ Preliminary Report - Regarding NASA's Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. (PDF; 293 kB) NASA , January 2011, accessed on April 4, 2011 (English).
  10. NASA Signs Agreement for a European-Provided Orion Service Module. January 16, 2013, accessed January 28, 2019 .
  11. Jason Davis: Orion's third flight will haul two pieces of a space station to lunar orbit. Planetary Society, September 6, 2018, accessed April 3, 2019 .
  12. NASA Successfully Completes Dramatic In-Flight Test of Orion's Abort System from July 2, 2019
  13. ESA is planning further space flights. ORF , January 17, 2018, accessed on January 17, 2018 .
  14. Airbus and human spaceflight: From ATV to Orion. Airbus , March 9, 2018, accessed October 28, 2018 .
  15. Orion Hardware Arrival. Retrieved January 2, 2016 .
  16. NASA Gears Up to Test Orion's Powerhouse. June 17, 2015, accessed January 28, 2019 .
  17. ESA deal hinges on what Trump does with NASA's human spaceflight plans. February 13, 2017, accessed January 28, 2019 .
  18. ESA service module on the way to the USA. November 5, 2018, accessed January 27, 2019 .
  19. 45th Space Wing Launch Hazard Area. (PDF) US Air Force, June 27, 2019, accessed June 27, 2019 .
  20. Stephen Clark: Live coverage: NASA conducts Orion abort test over Cape Canaveral. In: Spaceflight Now. July 2019, accessed July 2, 2019 .
  21. Launch Abort System Demonstrates Ability to Pull Astronauts to Safety - Ascent Abort-2. NASA, July 2, 2019, accessed July 2, 2019 (American English).
  22. a b c d Chris Bergin: Acronyms to Ascent - SLS managers create development milestone roadmap. NASASpaceFlight, February 23, 2012, accessed August 5, 2012 .
  23. Eric Berger: NASA's large SLS rocket unlikely to fly before at least late 2021. In: Ars Technica. July 17, 2019, accessed July 17, 2019 .
  24. a b Richard Kohrs: NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration & Operations Committee NAC HEOC. (PDF) NASA, March 8, 2014, accessed August 5, 2012 .
  25. a b Eric Berger: How much will the Moon plan cost? We should know in two weeks. In: Ars Technica. April 16, 2019, accessed on April 16, 2019 (see also additional Twitter message from Eric Berger).
  26. Twitter message from Jeff Foust, Spacenews, April 30, 2019.
  27. ^ Forward to the Moon: NASA's Strategic Plan for Lunar Exploration. (PDF; 8.7 MB) NASA, May 2019, accessed on May 26, 2019 .