NASA to test new Orion capsule in 2014.
NASA have announced a new Orion capsule will be tested ‘some time in 2014’. While they haven’t decided what rocket it will be sent to space on, they did announce that it will be sent into an orbit almost 3,700 miles from Earth for two loops around the planet, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
3,700 miles is “significantly higher than human spaceflight has gone since Apollo,” according to NASA - the International Space Station orbits within around 200 miles from Earth. The reason for the extra distance is to achieve a high-energy entry to Earths atmosphere, to stress test Orion’s heat shield.
The capsule itself is made by Lockheed Martin, under a contact awarded last year. At this stage the first manned flight of Orion will be in 2021, aboard a new rocket still under development - expected to be NASA’s most powerful rocket ever built.