GREENBELT, Md., May 24 (UPI) -- NASA says it has chosen the Orion space capsule built by Lockheed Martin Corp. as the basis of a vehicle to take astronauts beyond Earth orbit.
The Orion vehicle, originally part of the canceled Constellation return-to-the-moon program, will be called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, NASA said in a release Tuesday.
"We are committed to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
"As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track," Bolden said.
Lockheed Martin will continue to develop the capsule, which will have 316 cubic feet of habitable space to carry four astronauts on 21-day missions from launch to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
The MPCV is designed to be 10 times safer during ascent and entry than its predecessor, the space shuttle, NASA said.