Orion First Crewed Mission Slips to 2023


NASA held a media teleconference on Wednesday to announce the results of a critical review of the space agency’s Orion spacecraft, which had been tentatively scheduled for a first crewed launch in August of 2021. Based on the findings from the review, labelled Key Decision Point C, that launch is now not expected to take place until April of 2023, a slip of some 18 months. The new date for Exploration Mission 2, comes with a confidence level of 70% and a price tag of some $6.77 billion from the beginning of the FY 2016, a figure that does not take into account prior funding which stretches back more than a decade. Notably, that figure also does not include the entirely separate budgets for the Space Launch System which will loft the Orion capsule, nor the ground systems which will support both.

The latest setback to a program which can trace its roots back to 2002, and began in earnest with Project Constellation and 2004’s Vision for Space Exploration, ensures that America’s space agency will see a gap of nearly 12 years between the Space Shuttle’s last flight in July 2011 and the system which was designed to replace its as America’s flagship space exploration vessel. While program officials stressed that the delay is more a matter of “unknowns” than any specific technological problem or budget shortfall, the initial reaction from some space state representatives has been as predictable as it was swift.

In a statement, House  Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said “Once again, the Obama administration is choosing to delay deep space exploration priorities such as Orion and the Space Launch System that will take U.S. astronauts to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”


Posted in: Congress, SLS / Orion

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