Most the space-related news these days come from the private sector, so it's nice to hear something from NASA to remind us it isn't dead yet. In September NASA will launch Orion, one of its brand new space whips. The initial launch won't have anyone on board, but it will set up manned missions for the future. 

Orion can be traced back to the legendary Apollo. Both are two-part space ships with a conical module for astronauts and a cylindrical module for the engine, batteries, fuel cells, oxygen, and other equipment. The major difference is in size. With 316 cubic feet, the Orion dwarfs the 210-cubic-foot Apollo. That's enough room to increase the crew from three to four. 

In September the Orion will fly atop Delta heavy-lift rocket for two orbits around the earth. Then the craft and its heat shield will be tested as it re-enters the atmosphere. If everything goes well, the Orion could bring a crew with it to space in 2021 at the earliest. It's not as exciting as the NASA news our parents enjoyed, but it's sure as hell better than what's been going on lately. 

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[via Time