WASHINGTON (AP) — NASA says it will flight test its Orion crew space capsule three years earlier than planned.
The capsule will replace the retired space shuttle fleet. It will eventually be used to take four astronauts to nearby asteroids, the moon or Mars.
The first unmanned test flight of the capsule is now set for 2014 and will be on a commercial rocket. Originally, NASA was going to wait until 2017 when its own large rocket would be ready to launch a test of Orion.
But NASA officials said Tuesday they wanted to determine earlier how the Apollo-like capsule returns to Earth after two orbits and how NASA teams recover it from an ocean landing. The capsule will be reused. The additional test will cost about $370 million.