NASA has released draft objectives for its Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) programme describing a system consisting of a launch vehicle able to lift a man-rated spacecraft into low-Earth orbit to dock with an Earth departure stage (EDS) able to reach Moon orbit and then a lunar surface access module (LASM).

The draft statement of work is a step towards release of the CEV request for proposals next year. NASA's plan calls for the award of parallel risk-reduction contracts leading to competing flight demonstrations in 2008, with down select to a single contractor late that year.

The draft calls for the flight in 2014 of a CEV meeting Spiral 2 requirements as a threshold and Spiral 3 as an objective. Whereas Spiral 1 covers human operations in low-Earth orbit and robotic exploration of the Moon, Spiral 2 covers extended-duration human lunar exploration and robotic Mars missions. Spiral 3 encompasses a prolonged manned presence on the Moon and requires extensive surface systems and long-duration lunar-vicinity parking capability for the crew transport system.

NASA appears to be planning to launch the CEV, with a minimum crew of four, the EDS and the LASM separately.

Source: Flight International