NASA's Orion Spacecraft Passes PDR

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Passes PDR

NASA’s Orion spacecraft has successfully completed its preliminary design review (PDR), according to the agency.

Orion and its Ares launch vehicle are part of NASA’s Constellation program to replace the space shuttle and ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS) and return humans to the Moon by 2020. Reminiscent of an Apollo capsule, Orion is designed to sit atop its Ares booster, rather than on its side like the space shuttle orbiter.

The Orion design is considered superior from a safety standpoint in at least two ways. First, it would not be affected by foam or other debris that might fall from the Ares. Foam shedding from the space shuttle’s external tank caused the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. Second, the crew could use an emergency abort system to propel the spacecraft away from the Ares if there was a serious launch vehicle malfunction during launch. The 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy occurred because of the failure of a component (an O-ring) in one of the shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters.

The fate of the Orion and Ares programs remains up the air, however, as everyone awaits the report of the Augustine committee and White House and congressional action thereafter. There are rumors that an Executive Summary of the report may be released very soon, but no official word from NASA about that.

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