While watching this video animation of Orion EFT-1, a question occurred to me. Previous capsules (Apollo, Gemini, Mercury) were used once and then relegated to museums (apart from a few test flight articles). The Space Shuttle was, by design, reusable, even if it never lived up to its initial economic projections.

Could individual Orion capsules be reconditioned and launched again?

EDIT: The Space.com article referenced by TildalWave talks about Orion re-usability in a general way, but I'm hoping someone can dig up somewhat more official references and/or provide greater detail, such as what processes might be required before sending the capsule on its second mission, how many times it could practically be used, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ There's an OK-ish article on this over at Space.com. If someone was to equip some parts of what's mentioned there with additional info, that would be great. E.g. Spaceflight101 also has an extensive article on Orion spacecraft. Basically, it's most of the Crew Vehicle that can be refurbished and reused, but not the Service Module, Launch Abort System and heat shield. But, as Spaceflight101 mentions, heat shield might require redesigning for faster reentry anyway. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ @TildalWave This calls for a Wikipedia edit. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ IIRC the capsules were designed to be re-used, but only the things that were cheaply re-used. One lesson of the shuttle was that not everything can be economically re-used. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ Snarky answer: not if Lockheed has anything to say about it! ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Kirkaiya
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ I was answering using Wikipedia information you did add yourself. This reminded me of this joke, so I removed my answer... $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 8:11

1 Answer 1


Yes, they can, at least they are designed to do such. Here's some links supporting that:

As for how re-usable it will be, well, only time will tell. There was mention in the above articles of Orion having a kind of plug and play architecture where parts could easily be swapped, meaning that it should be easy to refurbish an Orion, but only time will tell just how easy it is.

From this article, comes the phrase:

Ultimately, LMSS wants each Orion capable of flying on half a dozen missions or more.

I believe LMSS is Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the prime contract on Orion.

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    $\begingroup$ Both the Wiki and the InfoWeek articles link back to the same Space.com article. Is it just this one engineer's opinion that Orion might possibly be reusable, or is this really Lockheed/NASAs plan? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 4:25
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    $\begingroup$ I'll have to find it, but I know they intend to at least partially re-use the test one done a few months ago. So I'm sure that reuse is intended. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ @JerardPuckett: I found another independent better article, which I added. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ Is it just me, or is "Ultimately ... capable of flying on half a dozen missions or more" not a very ambitious goal in terms of reuse? $\endgroup$
    – neelsg
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ It's consistent with the various designs of COTS. The shuttle was reused, yes, but with some major overhauls between flights. I hope the idea is to have less lifetime, but less work required between flights. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 12:46

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