NASA said Tuesday that it picked Lockheed Martin to develop a new spacecraft to ferry humans into deep space.
Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, said that the designs planned for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle will be used to develop its Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).
Bolden said that NASA is on "a clear path" to hand off transportation to the International Space Station to the private sector and 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," said Bolden.
The MPCV will continue to be developed by Lockheed Martin. The craft will carry four astronauts for 21-day missions and land in the Pacific Ocean off of California. Pressurized volume of habitable space will be 316 cubic feet. The craft, which should be carrying astronauts by 2016, will have a total volume of 690 cubic feet.
The Orion project was slated to be killed in an early 2010 NASA budget. Congress, however, supported the effort and President obama ressurrected a scaled down effort for Orion. Today, Orion is designed for a more limited role.
According to NASA, the MCPV is designed to:
- Serve as the primary crew vehicle beyond low Earth orbit;
- Conduct regular in-space operations such as docking and payload delivery;
- Be a backup for International Space Station cargo and crew delivery.