Reading about president Barack Obama’s decision to resurrect the Orion crew exploration vehicle as an escape capsule we are told (here and then here and in plenty of other articles) that this will reduce NASA’s dependence upon Russian crew transport services
This could not be more wrong. Russia has been providing all International Space Station (ISS) crew rotation flghts since STS-129, the last Shuttle flight to do that job in November last year
The ISS has six crew (yes Expedition 22 had only five crew) and for that Russia is providing four three-crew Energia Soyuz TMA spacecraft a year
Orion Lite will not launch crew, it launches unmanned for an automatic rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station and then sits there, but until when?
It is not needed for an emergency return. Soyuz have been docked to the station for the emergency return role ever since station has been inhabited. So Orion Lite is not reducing Russian flights to the station and it is simply not needed for the escape roleIf you were onboard ISS and needed to escape which vehicle would you want to get into, a Soyuz TMA or the Orion Lite? This blogger would take the tried and tested Soyuz every time
Previously we have been told that the original Orion had been baselined as a four crew vehicle. If that is still the case for Orion Lite then if both of those Soyuz capsules fail during this ISS emergency it looks like the mission commander (Captain always goes down with the ship, right?) and one other unluckly individual have a problem this blogger doesn’t want to contemplate
It is true that the US has been “responsible” for crew emergency return under the ISS framework agreement for some time. Originally the Space Shuttle ferried X-38 was to have done this job. It was cancelled by President George W. Bush much to the annoyance if not anger of NASA’s X-38 project partner the European Space Agency
This blog will investigate further into NASA’s ISS crew return responsibilities. Perhaps Orion Lite means NASA doesn’t have to pay some sort of crew transport premium on those $51 million, now $56 milion, seat prices, because Soyuz was not supposed to be an escape capsule