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NASA scraps manned Orion-SLS launch plan


Posted on Monday, 15 May, 2017 | Comment icon 9 comments

A new age of manned spaceflight is almost upon us. Image Credit: NASA
The US space agency has decided against placing astronauts aboard its new rocket on its first launch.
It has been almost 50 years since the last human set foot on the surface of another world and with the discontinuation of the Space Shuttle program back in 2011, manned space exploration has become limited to routine journeys to and from the International Space Station.

This could soon be set to change however thanks to NASA's Orion Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System - two projects which when combined have the potential to take humans all the way to Mars.

The first integrated test flight of these systems, Exploration Mission 1, had been set to achieve a retrograde lunar orbit in 2018 with a crew of astronauts along for the ride, but now, following a renewed feasibility and risk-assessment study, the decision has been made to scrap the manned portion of the mission with the hope of launching EM-1 in early 2019.

The move is probably wise, especially given the number of delays that have occurred so far and the amount of time and funds that would have been needed to implement support for a manned crew.

The first manned test flight is instead likely to be the follow-up mission - EM-2.


Source: Tech Times | Comments (9)

Tags: Orion, SLS, Moon

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by goodgodno on 15 May, 2017, 22:42
To a general observer such as myself this looks just like an apollo with a similar mission. 60 years on it somehow seems backwards. But I am not fully attuned to this topic so my thoughts are of little value. I do often wonder why we cant construct a modular spacecraft in earth orbit capable of reaching mars. If we are able to construct ISS then why not, for lack of a better word, a spaceship?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 16 May, 2017, 0:23
Hardly a similar mission given that the ultimate goal of Orion is to take humans to Mars. That is EXACTLY the plan. Orion is simply the spacecraft that the astronauts will launch in and return to Earth in. Missions to Mars WILL use a modular craft.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Derek Willis on 16 May, 2017, 7:50
Does NASA feel the likelihood of a failure/accident to be greater with the first SLS launch than with the first launch of the shuttle in 1981? That flight - almost forty years ago - was manned. My memory may be failing, but at the time NASA said the shuttle flight had to be manned because Columbia needed to be flown back to Earth by a pilot. I don't know if that was actually the case, because as the Soviet's demonstrated with the single flight of their shuttle Buran in 1988, automatic return was perfectly possible. I just wonder if since the Challenger and Columbia disasters, NASA would prefer... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by paperdyer on 16 May, 2017, 12:30
If the picture is an accurate representation of the Orion, it looks a lot like the SpaceX rocket. You can't blame NASA for being cautious, especially if new or modified technology is being used. If nothing happens, then 20/20 hindsight will be on them for not having a manned mission.  If the mission was manned and something happened, then the same 20/20 hindsight would be very critical, especially the news media.
Comment icon #5 Posted by u2canbfmj on 16 May, 2017, 12:33
EM-1 was designed to be unmanned. Hence, may parts of the rocket aren't man rated yet. The ICPS second stage for one example isn't man rated. The cost and schedule to rate these systems lines up with the original EM-2 Launch date.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Derek Willis on 16 May, 2017, 13:02
I had a brief look at the criteria for human-rating of rockets and spacecraft. After the Challenger and Columbia disasters the criteria were made more stringent. Hence, at the time of its maiden flight Columbia would not have met the criteria now used, and so would not be considered safe enough to carry humans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human-rating_certification I guess in a way, this confirms what I said: NASA are now more sensitive to risk than they were in the past. That of course is a good thing.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Merc14 on 16 May, 2017, 15:08
  NASA had an open telecom update last week that anyone could listen into so I did for about the last half and what I got from it is that their plans for this first mission were to push the entire spacecraft to its extremes, really wring it out so they could further refine and protect it and having a crew aboard would've curtailed that scenario.  Also, getting the craft to full crew readiness probably would've delayed the mission, so they decided to go with the original mission scenario.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Merc14 on 16 May, 2017, 16:29
I believe you can listen to the telecom here but my computer won't load the page correctly so just assuming  https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-to-hold-media-teleconference-today-on-study-to-add-crew-to-first-orion-space
Comment icon #9 Posted by Derek Willis on 16 May, 2017, 16:46
That makes sense. Pushing the craft almost to its limit might highlight some areas that need improving. Hindsight is a great thing, but perhaps a similar procedure might have saved the lives of the shuttle crews. Many years ago I watched a documentary about John Young, who commanded the first shuttle flight. His self-deprecating manner was fascinating. He was asked if he and Bob Crippen had been scared before the flight. His answer was: "We were too dumb to be scared". I guess only a former naval aviator, test pilot and astronaut who had been to the Moon twice can come up with an answer like t... [More]


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