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  Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
  [SLS] Mars flyby 2021: 1st Orion deep space flight?

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Author Topic:   [SLS] Mars flyby 2021: 1st Orion deep space flight?
Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2014 11:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space and Technology has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 27, 2014 with the title, "Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System?"

Witnesses testifying include:

  • Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University

  • General Lester Lyles (ret.), Independent Aerospace Consultant and former Chairman of the Committee on "Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program" established by the National Academies

  • Mr. Doug Cooke, Owner, Cooke Concepts and Solutions and former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate

  • Dr. Sandra Magnus, Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
The hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), will be webcast live.

Headshot
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posted 02-21-2014 11:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is indeed intriguing.

Do you know if any currently active NASA managers, directors, administrators, etc., will be testifying at this hearing?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2014 11:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unless the House announces differently, the four witnesses listed are the four who will be offering testimony.

328KF
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posted 02-21-2014 11:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This should be very interesting. I noticed that the announcement doesn't indicate whether this is a discussion about a manned or unmanned mission.

I'll also be listening for any reference to Inspiration Mars. According to their website, they have a target launch date of January 5, 2018. They are also currently still shopping for a booster (and money!) so it will be interesting to see if any collaboration is possible.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2014 11:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jeff Foust (editor of SpacePolitics.com and The Space Review) noted on Twitter today that he had "heard recently [Inspiration Mars] had changed minds [from a 2018 launch] towards a 2020-1 attempt."

Glint
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posted 02-21-2014 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
I noticed that the announcement doesn't indicate whether this is a discussion about a manned or unmanned mission.

According to Congressman Steve Stockman's Facebook page, not only is the Mars mission planned to be manned, but Orion's taking people to Venus too, and in the same year. (I didn't know Orion was being designed for the conditions that close to the sun.)

The House Science Committee will hold a hearing on an exciting mission to send Americans to flyby both Mars and Venus in 2021. "Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System?" February 27.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2014 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What Stockman is referencing is a launch window and trajectory that Inspiration Mars discovered in the course of its studies. Dennis Tito described that approach in his testimony before Congress last year. From New Scientist's reporting at the time:
Tito also announced a possible plan B, noting that Mars, Earth and Venus will be aligned in 2021 such that the spacecraft could launch towards Venus and use its gravity to slingshot back out towards Mars. The crew would go within about 800 kilometres of the surface of Venus, and the trip would take only about 80 days more.

Fra Mauro
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posted 02-21-2014 05:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is certainly interesting news. They better have 100% confidence in the Orion and SLS by then. I doubt it will happen unless this Administration and whoever follows it, is supportive.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-22-2014 05:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I want to see a resumption of lunar exploration, but even I would applaud such a bold initiative. The crew would join the list of immortals: Columbus, Magellan, Cook, Borman/Lovell/Anders...

Kite
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posted 02-23-2014 09:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kite     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is brilliant news, just hope it isn't scuppered from the start. It would be on a par to Kennedy announcing going to the Moon.

mode1charlie
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posted 02-23-2014 09:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sounds like a very exciting prospect. Although I haven't heretofore been particularly a fan of SLS, this would be an excellent justification and a real kick-start for NASA.

Make it so.

Headshot
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posted 02-24-2014 06:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not to rain on the parade, but I seriously doubt that our current president would back such a proposal, as it would seriously detract from his asteroid initiative.

Also, I am certain funding would not be forthcoming from Congress either, I can almost hear them whine "Where is the money gonna come from?; What do we cut to afford this?; or Let private industry do it."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-26-2014 09:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space and Technology has released the charter for tomorrow's hearing.

BBlatcher
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posted 02-26-2014 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BBlatcher     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This sounds like a terrible idea. There's little reason to be sending manned missions to Mars and especially Venus, when so much work still needs to be done around and on the Moon. This sounds like grandstanding, with little reason to stay and build something that can grow.

p51
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posted 02-26-2014 06:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They can't be serious with the timeframe. The Orion has never done anything but be dropped for tests a few times. I can't see anything but a 'Project Apollo' style effort to get a flight-ready stack ready to fly for somehting like this in such a short timeframe given where NASA is at this moment...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-26-2014 06:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Orion flies into space for the first time this September. Its first unmanned flight on the Space Launch System is scheduled for 2017 on a mission that will fly out beyond the moon and back (and development is on schedule to support that).

NASA is planning to launch its first crew on Orion, atop the Space Launch System, in 2021 — either to orbit the moon or rendezvous with a captured asteroid.

This proposal seeks to re-purpose that first manned flight for the Venus/Mars flyby.

There are issues with the idea, but the time frame is not necessarily one of them.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2014 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to Doug Cooke during his testimony, the proposed mission's timeline is as follows:
  • Launch: November 2021
  • Venus flyby: April 2022
  • Mars flyby: October 2022
  • Earth return: June 2023

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2014 02:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An archived webcast for the hearing is now available, as well as the prepared testimony of each witness: All four said that they thought the 2021 flyby was possible, with conditions. In particular, Magnus stressed that any mission needed to be approached within the larger context of a well-planned exploration program (as opposed to a standalone flight) and with the appropriate funding for such an endeavor (she made it clear NASA's current budget wouldn't cut it).

Pace preferred a moon-first approach (but saw the Mars flyby as a possible bridge between the current status quo and lunar exploration). Lyles continued to support the findings of the Augustine committee, on which he served. And Cooke supported the flyby and thought the SLS and Orion could be ready in time.

Notably absent from the panel was anyone from NASA, which was critically raised by at least one of the committee members (it has been suggested the committee's chair purposely excluded space agency officials).

mode1charlie
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posted 02-27-2014 03:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have no wish to start a battle, but I'm struck by some of the negative comments here.

I couldn't be more in favor of a return to the moon, or an asteroid mission - and ultimately towards a manned Mars landing. But aside from whatever not-inconsiderable cost or technical hurdles that might be showstoppers, and just looking at it from an exploration standpoint, I can't imagine a better way to re-capture excitement and interest in human spaceflight than this proposed Venus/Mars flyby.

I suspect this mission would go very far in generating public (and more importantly, Congressional) support for NASA's budget by demonstrating that it can do something very big and inspiring. If we're going ahead with SLS (and I have been skeptical), then let's do something bold with it.

star61
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posted 02-27-2014 06:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for star61   Click Here to Email star61     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am all for returning to exploration and just "Getting out there!" BUT...

19 months for presumably at least two crew in JUST the Orion capsule? I always considered a pre-requisite for any trip to Mars, was a habitation module in addition to the launch/earth reentry module.

I think even Borman and Lovell would balk at that mission.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2014 06:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Mars flyby, as proposed by Inspiration Mars, included an inflatable module of the type being designed/built by Bigelow Aerospace, as a logistics and habitation module.

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posted 02-27-2014 07:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The crew would spend at least 6-8 months being closer to the sun than they would at Earth's orbit. They surely need some better way of coping with solar activity and radiation than a Bigelow Inflatable Module.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-28-2014 08:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Committee on Science, Space and Technology release (Feb. 27, 2014)
Committee Democrats Emphasize Need for Human Space Exploration Roadmap

Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to examine the need for a strategic human exploration roadmap and whether a potential manned Mars flyby mission might fit in such a roadmap. Although the hearing was also called to examine how NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle being developed might contribute to a potential Mars flyby mission in 2021, there were no witnesses from NASA to provide further details on their status.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her opening statement, "It's time for NASA to tell us how they intend to achieve that goal [of a human mission to the surface of Mars]. What technologies will be needed, what sequence of intermediate destinations should be pursued and why, and what are the risks that will need to be addressed? We also need to hear from NASA about the progress being made on the Space Launch System and on Orion, the two systems that are critical to our exploration efforts beyond low Earth orbit. What are the challenges they are facing, how will they be used to support NASA's roadmap to Mars, and are they being adequately funded to meet the milestones laid out for those two programs?"

The witness panel included Dr. Scott Pace, the Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University; General Lester Lyles (ret.), an independent aerospace consultant and former Chairman of the Committee on "Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program" established by the National Academies; Mr. Doug Cooke, the owner of Cooke Concepts and Solutions and former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate; and Dr. Sandra Magnus, the Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Members and witnesses discussed the importance of developing a roadmap that will lead to a human mission to Mars. Subcommittee on Space Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-MD) called for NASA to create such a roadmap in the NASA authorization bill she introduced last July. In her statement for the record she said, "NASA does not currently have such a roadmap or integrated strategic framework. As a result, NASA cannot provide us with specifics on Mars mission risk areas, potential risk mitigation approaches, and the rationale for planned intermediate destinations. Nor can it articulate how its programs or selected interim destinations contribute effectively to making progress on such a roadmap."

Several other members and witnesses also discussed other needed aspects of a roadmap, including technologies, commitment, and sustainability. In addition, they discussed the need for continued NASA funding, setting long-term priorities and goals, as well as the role of NASA's human spaceflight missions in inspiring the nation.

General Lester Lyles' expressed concern with the Mars flyby mission in his prepared statement saying, "In my own opinion, the Inspiration Mars proposal is high risk, poses significant challenges to the crew because of radiation and life support concerns, has unidentified cost, and is being proposed at a time that NASA's budget is already over-constrained." He added, "[W]hat will it all cost, and is this the best way to spend limited resources? Before making any major decisions concerning such a mission, it is vital that the proposal undergo a vigorous independent technical evaluation."

Dr. Sandy Magnus said in her prepared statement, "The Mars Flyby thus can only be discussed in the context of that larger strategy and the associated missions and operational goals. I would also like to underscore that any plan, whether its goals are to retrieve an asteroid, establish a lunar base, or send people to Mars – or any combination thereof – is doomed to failure without the resources to support it – resources provided in a sustained and sustainable manner based on realistic projections."

Ranking Member Johnson called for a future hearing with a witness from NASA to discuss the progress being made on SLS, Orion, and related investments, as well as on NASA's progress in developing a clear human space exploration roadmap.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-28-2014 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Committee on Science, Space and Technology release (Feb. 27, 2014)
Committee Examines Mars Flyby Mission

The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today held a hearing to explore the potential for a human mission in 2021 to fly by the planets Mars and Venus.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "Mankind's first steps on the Moon are a distant memory. There's a sense that America is falling behind, with our best days behind us. Today, America's finest spaceships and largest rockets are found in museums rather than on launch pads. Great nations do great things. We must rekindle within NASA the fire that blazed that trail to the Moon. The future of this nation's exploration efforts lead to Mars. The first flag to fly on another planet in our Solar System should be that of the United States."

Witnesses today discussed the merits and challenges of a Mars Flyby mission. One advantage would be the potential for NASA to utilize architecture that is already under development, including the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle. The proposed mission would take advantage of a unique alignment between Earth and Mars in 2021 that minimizes the time and energy necessary for a flyby. Under the proposal, a trip to Mars would take roughly a year and a half instead of two to three years.

Following the hearing, Chairman Smith along with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Appropriations' Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science, sent a letter to NASA requesting that the agency examine the Mars Flyby 2021 proposal and other missions for deep space exploration. The full letter can be found HERE.

President Obama cancelled NASA's flagship Constellation program in 2010. The primary goal of Constellation was a return mission to the Moon with a long-term goal of a human mission to Mars. By contrast, the primary human spaceflight goal under the Obama administration is a mission to an asteroid instead of the Moon.

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.): "This Committee has been consistent in its commitment to human exploration. Yet, over the last decade, the human exploration program at NASA has been plagued with instability from constantly changing requirements, budgets, and missions. As other space-faring nations expand their programs and look to destinations such as the Moon and Mars, I consider American leadership in space as a matter of national pride but also national security."

DavidH
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posted 02-28-2014 09:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While Inspiration Mars published artwork depicting an inflatable habitat, I don't believe that was ever baseline. The final report released in November baselined a Cygnus-derived habitat.

Fra Mauro
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posted 02-28-2014 07:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is just a Venus flyby possible?

Glint
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posted 03-01-2014 01:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
President Obama cancelled NASA's flagship Constellation program in 2010. The primary goal of Constellation was a return mission to the Moon with a long-term goal of a human mission to Mars. By contrast, the primary human spaceflight goal under the Obama administration is a mission to an asteroid instead of the Moon.
In his oral comments, Dr. Pace observed that "the White House has wrongly said that it is uninterested in the moon and has failed to connect the dots, in my opinion, of an exploration strategy that serves broader national interests." He sees the Venus/Mars flyby as a bridge for connecting the lunar and Mars exploration communities.

Tom
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posted 03-01-2014 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A 19 month trip on Orion's maiden (manned) flight... that's really thinking outside the box!

Blackarrow
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posted 03-16-2014 06:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Would it be feasible to use a stripped-down Orion spacecraft as a habitation module on the proposed Earth-Venus-Mars-Earth flight? With the removal of unnecessary subsystems would it be possible to line the interior with a thin layer of lead to provide additional protection against solar radiation?

What is the proposed re-entry speed at the end of the mission? I'm thinking not only of the design limits of the Orion heat-shield, but also the safety of astronauts who will have been weightless for 19 months.

Fra Mauro
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posted 05-16-2014 12:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why not just put a crew on the first SLS launch in 2017? Yes there are many technical reasons but what happened to the spirit of exploration? STS-1 was manned as we recall.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-16-2014 01:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What you're suggesting is closer to asking why didn't they put a crew on Enterprise and launch it in 1979, rather than making the decision to fly STS-1 manned.

SpaceAholic
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posted 05-16-2014 02:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DavidH:
The final report released in November baselined a Cygnus-derived habitat.
Better still — demate one of the ISS modules, retrofit for the mission.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-16-2014 02:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why would that be better? The ISS modules weren't designed for deep space use, and we have zero experience retrofitting anything in orbit for a different mission.

It also means you need to depart for Mars from 51.6 degrees inclination, or spend fuel changing inclination before departing.

A Bigelow inflatable or Cygnus capsule can be configured pre-flight and deployed into any inclination supported by the launch site.

SpaceAholic
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posted 05-16-2014 03:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We have zero experience sending a crewed mission to Mars but that isnt going to be an impediment to trying.

Changes required to independently align the module with the desired departure inclination (and prior to docking with Orion) are within the realm of the possible using augmented impulse. As configured they do not represent safe havens for radiation, so retrofitting with panels/foam delivered incrementally to ISS in preparation for re-purposing is one possible answer.

onesmallstep
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posted 05-16-2014 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's wait and see if the transport of choice — Orion — does well in its shakedown flights. I would demur on putting a crew aboard the SLS/Orion combo on its first flight; doing an Apollo 7-type one or even better two-week test in low and high earth orbits is called for. A test drive, like with a car, can bring out potential problems with the design.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-16-2014 04:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by onesmallstep:
...doing an Apollo 7-type one or even better two-week test in low and high earth orbits is called for.
Other than this December's EFT-1 flight, there are no Earth orbital missions planned for Orion.

As currently manifested, Orion's EM-1 mission, the first to fly on SLS, will be an unmanned circumlunar seven-day flight. The following flight, EM-2 (as of today) will fly astronauts out to a captured asteroid in cislunar space.

As currently manifested, EM-2 would be the second flight of the SLS. (NASA has a notional plan to possibly add cargo flights before EM-2, such that the first astronauts to fly on SLS would be aboard the booster's third or fourth flight.)

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-16-2014 04:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
...are within the realm of the possible
I don't dispute it is possible, but is it better?

Using an ISS module not only means having to reconfigure the ISS (which is short on storage and equipment space as it is) but also having to divert ISS crew time for activities that could be accomplished on the ground by launching a new vehicle.

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