NASA administrator Charles Bolden said that the system will be based on designs originally planned for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. Those plans will now be used to develop a new spacecraft, dubbed the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).
‘We are committed to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there,’ said Bolden. ‘The NASA Authorization Act lays out a clear path for us by handing over transportation to the International Space Station to our private-sector partners, so we can focus on deep-space exploration.
‘As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy-lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track.’
According to NASA, Lockheed Martin will continue working to develop the MPCV. The spacecraft will carry four astronauts for 21-day missions and be able to land in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
The spacecraft will have a pressurised volume of 690ft3, with 316ft3 of habitable space. It is designed to be 10 times safer during ascent and entry than its predecessor, the space shuttle.
‘This selection does not indicate a “business as usual” mentality for NASA programmes,’ said Douglas Cooke, associate administrator for the agency’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. ‘The Orion government and industry team has shown exceptional creativity in finding ways to keep costs down through management techniques, technical solutions and innovation.’