NASA: Mars Orion Spacecraft Missions Might Be Delayed Due To Technical, Budget Challenges

First Posted: Apr 15, 2017 06:00 AM EDT

NASA has recently announced that it could probably postpone the first two of its Orion deep-space capsule launches because of financial and technical issues.The capsule is being developed to launch astronauts beyond the orbit of Earth and eventually to Mars.

According to a News Nation report, the first Orion spacecraft will be launched on top of the planned Space Launch System (SLS), which will become the world’s most powerful rocket as soon as it is launched. The first of the two launches, Exploration Mission 1 (Em-1), will be unmanned and will take place in the early part of November 2018. The second Mars mission Exploration Mission 2 (Em-2), which will be a crewed probe that will carry astronauts, is scheduled for take off in August 2021.

However, as per the conclusions from a nine-month audit, the report stated that “NASA’s initial exploration missions on its Journey to Mars -- EM-1 and EM-2 -- face multiple technical and cost challenges that likely will affect their planned launch dates.” The challenges are linked to SLS, Orion and associated ground systems.

Space News has reported that work on SLS has taken nearly all of the 11 months of schedule reserve it originally had. The Orion also faces issues due to the delays in the development of the Orion service module and technical risks associated with changes in the design of Orion’s heat shield. The official report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) also stated that work on Kennedy Space Center’s ground systems has only a month of schedule reserve remaining.

The total expenditure for the Orion, SLS and ground systems development programs is expected to cost $23 billion, in all likelihood by the end of fiscal year 2018. The crewed mission to Mars is expected to exceed $33 billion by 2033. Moreover, to achieve the target of sending astronauts near Mars in the 2030s, the U.S. space agency needs to carry out crucial development work on key systems such as in-space transportation, deep-space habitat and Mars landing and ascent vehicles in the 2020s.

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