Friday, December 5, 2014

VIDEO: Orion launches new US space era!

NASA's back in the big rocket business! Today they launched the Orion mission's first test flight, which one day will (hopefully) put manned missions on Mars. Here's video of the launch in case you missed it:

Here's a nice infographic on the scale of the rocket, including comparison to the Apollo mission's once ubiquitous Saturn V (click to enlarge):

Orion uses the two-stage Delta IV rocket system for hoisting payloads into orbit (and beyond). Here's some specs taken right from NASA's data page:
Delta IV Heavy with extra rocket boosters

Main Engine
Design simplicity, demonstrated capability and cost-efficiency define the RS-68A, the main engine for the Delta IV. Designed and manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the throttleable RS-68A engine is the largest existing hydrogen-burning engine. Conceived using a simplified design approach, the resulting engine requires 80 percent fewer parts than the Space Shuttle main engine, is lower risk, has reduced development and production costs and has inherently reliable operation.

Nominal Thrust (sea level): 702,000 lbs
Specific Impulse (sea level): 362 seconds
Length: 204 in
Weight: 14,876 lbs
Fuel/Oxidizer: Liquid Hydrogen/Liquid Oxygen

Solid Rocket Motors
For missions requiring additional thrust at liftoff, the Delta IV M+ configurations use either two or four Alliant Techsystems-manufactured solid rocket motors (SRM). Separation is accomplished by initiating ordnance thrusters that provide a radial thrust to jettison the expended SRMs away from the first stage.

Peak Vacuum Thrust: 280,000 lbf
Specific Impulse: 275.2 seconds
Length: 636 in
Maximum Diameter: 60 in
Weight: 74,500 lbs
Nominal Burn Time: 90 seconds

Second Stage
Both the Atlas and the Delta IV second stages rely on the RL10 propulsion system to power their second stages. Logging an impressive record of more than 385 successful flights and nearly 700 firings in space, RL10 engines, manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, harness the power of high-energy liquid hydrogen and boast a precision control system and restart capability to accurately place critical payloads into orbit.
The Delta IV employs the RL10B-2 with the world’s largest carbon-carbon extendible nozzle.

Nominal Thrust: 24,750 lbs
Specific Impulse: 465.5 seconds
Fuel/Oxidizer: Liquid Hydrogen/Liquid Oxygen
Length: 86.5 in (stowed); 163.5 in (deployed)
Diameter (nozzle extension): 84.5 in
Weight: 664 lbs

Fun fact: the habitable space aboard the Orion crew module is roughly equivalent to two minivans. That's pretty tight quarters for a long journey to Mars!

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