NASA's Manned Orion Space Capsule Will Now Launch In 2023
The first manned test of the Orion space capsule has been pushed back two years to 2023, according to a NASA announcement.
The Orion program was established to end America's reliance on Russian spacecraft in order to shuttle US astronauts to and from the International Space Station, writes Tech Times.
The space agency could still meet the original test date of 2021, but the space agency has undertaken a review of the program suggesting that it may have to be postponed until 2023, with the new date for the Orion launch to occur "no later than April 2023".
NASA officials have acknowledged that the manned mission is unlikely to occur but the originally proposed date of August 2021 - although they are still working hard to try to get to this point.
"It's not a very high confidence level, I'll tell you that, because of the history - the things we see historically pop up," said Robert Lightfoot, NASA Associated Administrator.
The space agency stated that complicating factors included the development of equipment that could be reused from mission to mission as well as the engineering of new flight software for the spacecraft.
"We're not seeing any issues in those areas, but we have to account for those, because we have a lot of runway in front of us," Lightfoot said.
Aerospace company Lockheed Martin manufactured the Orion Capsule, which will take crews beyond Earth's orbit and even to Mars alongside NASA's Space Launch System rocket.
An unmanned test flight, which occurred in 2014 sent the Orion 3,600 miles above Earth. However, the first unmanned test flight for the Space Launch System has been delayed until 2018.
So far, NASA has already spent $4.7 billion on the development of the Orion spacecraft, which has been designed to hold a crew consisting of four astronauts. NASA recently committed a further $6.7 billion to the project, which should carry the project to the first manned flight in 2023.
The first test flight will be programmed to remain close to Earth, while engineers ensure that all the systems aboard the spacecraft - particularly the life support systems are checked, NASA says.
The Orion project to launch a crew into space remains one of NASA's top priorities, NASA officials say.
A second crewed test flight could be sent to circle the far side of the moon, which could become a testing ground for a number of missions, says Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Directorate.
"Orion is a predominant, first key player in really allowing us to move human presence out of low Earth orbit," he says.