NASA has reached an important milestone for the next U.S. transportation system that will carry humans into deep space. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced today that the system will be based on designs originally planned for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. Those plans now will be used to develop a new spacecraft known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).
“We are committed to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there,” Bolden said. “The NASA Authorization Act lays out a clear path forward for us by handing off transportation to the International Space Station to our private sector partners, so we can focus on deep space exploration. As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track.”
Lockheed Martin Corp. will continue working to develop the MPCV. The spacecraft will carry four astronauts for 21-day missions and be able to land in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. The spacecraft will have a pressurized volume of 690 cubic feet, with 316 cubic feet of habitable space. It is designed to be 10 times safer during ascent and entry than its predecessor, the space shuttle.
“This selection does not indicate a business as usual mentality for NASA programs,” said Douglas Cooke, associate administrator for the agency’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. “The Orion government and industry team has shown exceptional creativity in finding ways to keep costs down through management techniques, technical solutions and innovation.”
The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is based on the Orion design requirements for traveling beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The MPCV will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
Spacecraft to serve as the primary crew vehicle for missions beyond LEO Capable of conducting regular in-space operations (rendezvous, docking, extravehicular activity) in conjunction with payloads delivered by SLS for missions beyond LEO Capability to be a backup system for ISS cargo and crew delivery.