quarta-feira, fevereiro 06, 2013

Rocketville #5 - NASA Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle

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This spaceship, known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), will be based on designs originally planned for the Orion spacecraft. Orion was part of NASA's now-canceled Constellation program, which aimed to return astronauts to the moon by the 2020s.

President Barack Obama shut down the Constellation program last year, tasking NASA instead with sending people to an asteroid by 2025, and then to aim for crewed Mars missions by the 2030s. Modifying the Orion capsule design - rather than drawing up plans for an entirely new spaceship - should help make that feasible.

Lockheed Martin Corp., NASA's prime contractor for Orion, will continue work to develop the MPCV spacecraft. So far, NASA has already invested a little more than $5 billion in the spaceship, which is pretty far along.
For example, Lockheed has already built a full-size mock-up vehicle, called a Ground Test Article, and will soon subject it to a series of rigorous trials at a facility in Colorado.

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The gumdrop-shaped MPCV is about 16.5 feet (5 m) wide at its base and weighs about 23 tons. The space capsule will have a pressurized volume of 690 cubic feet (20 cubic meters), with 316 cubic feet (9 cubic m) of habitable space, according to an official description. It's designed to carry four astronauts at a time and return to Earth with splashdowns in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.

The spacecraft will be NASA's primary vehicle for delivering astronauts to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, such as asteroids or Mars. Such journeys would take months, and the four astronauts won't be cooped up in the cramped MPCV the entire time. Rather, the capsule will meet up with some type of habitation module in space, making the trip much more comfortable.

The MPCV is designed to be 10 times safer during launch, re-entry and landing than its predecessor, the space shuttle. Much of this improved safety comes from a launch-abort system, which can steer the crew away from its rocket in case anything goes wrong during liftoff. The space shuttle has no such capability.

The MPCV will be capable of performing a variety of in-space activities, such as rendezvousing and docking with other craft. And astronauts aboard the MPCV will be able to perform spacewalks.

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