US space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Exploration) has unveiled a Mars ship or Mars craft named as Orion. The craft is designed to explore deep space making it a landmark project after shuttle program ended in 2011. The launch of the craft on a Delta Rocket from Cape Canaveral today (Dec 4, 2014) was rescheduled due to issues like wind gusts, valve failure and a boat nearing the launch pad area. Its maiden flight is to be tried on Dec 5, 2014.
Orion, the conical vessel reminds of the Apollo ships which transported crew to the moon in 1960s and 1970s. It is a test flight with no crew aboard. Lockheed Martin is the company which developed Orion craft, operating for NASA has got meagre 3 days to take off the craft. The launch pads are booked by other private companies and agencies working on different projects after the privatisation of space travel in the US.
The project details of the test run are as follows
- Orion craft will ascend to an altitude of 3,600 miles which is 15 times higher than the ISS (International Space Station).
- It orbits Earth twice.
- After four and half hours, it will descend towards Earth by splashing into the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles off the coast of Baja California. Thereby it achieves a re-entry speed close to 30,000km/h (20,000mph), a simulation of a capsule coming back from moon.
- This re-entry would provide engineers an opportunity to check the performance of craft’s critical heat shield that is likely to experience temperatures in excess of 2,000C (4,000F).
- 2 U.S. Naval ships, USS Anchorage, transport ship and USNS Salvor Military Sealift ship will help NASA to recover the capsule from the ocean.
Currently, the Orion is launched from Delta IV-Heavy rocket, the beefiest launcher in the world. Later in 2017 or 2018 it is to be launched with a powerful rocket to reach the Red planet, Mars.
Orion’s launch with a crew would be around 2020/2021.