Orion ("o-rie-un") is a new NASA spacecraft. NASA is building it as a part of a new program to explore space.
What Will Orion Do?
The Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts into deep space. Then it will bring them safely back to Earth. Orion will be able to travel to Mars or even an asteroid. Orion also could carry crews or supplies to the space station.
Orion will launch on top of a huge rocket. NASA is building this rocket. It is called a heavy-lift launch vehicle. It will take Orion farther into space than people have been before.
Orion will use energy from the sun, which is called solar energy. Orion has solar panels that look like round wings. They will get power from the sun when Orion is in space.
Why Doesn't NASA Use the Space Shuttle?
The space shuttle was an amazing spacecraft. NASA used it for 30 years. It flew 135 missions. The shuttle carried satellites to space. It took parts to build the International Space Station. It also carried crews to the station. NASA learned a lot about space while using the shuttle. NASA also learned things from the shuttle to help make Orion.
But the space shuttle was not made to travel very far into space. And the shuttle could not stay in space for much more than two weeks at a time.
When Will Orion Fly?
Before a spacecraft can fly, NASA must test it. NASA wants to be sure that Orion will do the job well. And it must work safely. NASA already has tested parts of Orion. NASA plans to make Orion's first test flight in the year 2014. This flight will launch from Florida. No people will ride on it during the test. The spacecraft will fly around Earth two times. Then the test vehicle will return to Earth at high speeds. The test vehicle will land in the ocean near California.
More About Orion
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