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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NASA Orion Spacecraft Program

Drawing from more than 50 years of space flight research and development, Orion is designed to meet the evolving needs of our nation’s space program for decades to come. As the flagship of our nation’s next-generation space fleet, Orion will push the envelope of human spaceflight far beyond low Earth orbit. Orion may resemble its Apollo-era predecessors, but its technology and capability are light years apart. Orion features dozens of technology advancements and innovations that have been incorporated into the spacecraft’s subsystem and component design.

To support long-duration deep space missions of up to six months, Orion engineers developed a state-of- the-art spacecraft with unique life support, propulsion, thermal protection and avionics systems. Building upon the best of Apollo and shuttle-era design, the Orion spacecraft includes both crew and service modules, a spacecraft adaptor, and a revolutionary launch abort system that will significantly increase crew safety.

Orion’s crew module is much larger than Apollo’s and can support more crew members for short or long- duration spaceflight missions. The service module is the powerhouse that fuels and propels the spacecraft as well as the storehouse for the life-sustaining air and water astronauts need during their space travels. The service module’s structure will also provide places to mount scientific experiments and cargo.

Orion is capable of supporting low Earth orbit missions or transporting astronauts on a variety of expeditions beyond low Earth orbit – ushering in a new era of space exploration. Orion can carry astronauts to the International Space Station, deliver cargo for resupply, and remain on orbit under its own power supply to serve as an emergency escape vehicle for the crew onboard.


Launch Abort System

The launch abort system, positioned on a tower atop the crew module, activates within milliseconds to propel the crew module to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or climb to orbit. The system also protects the crew module from dangerous atmospheric loads and heating, then jettisons after Orion is through the initial mission phase of ascent to orbit.

Crew Module

The crew module is the transportation capsule that provides a safe habitat for the crew, provides storage for consumables and research instruments, and serves as the docking port for crew transfers. The crew module is the only part of Orion that returns to Earth after each mission.

Service Module.

The service module supports the crew module from launch through separation prior to reentry. It provides in-space propulsion capability for orbital transfer, attitude control, and high altitude ascent aborts. When mated with the crew module, it provides the water, oxygen and nitrogen needed for a habitable environment, generates and stores electrical power while on-orbit, and maintains the temperature of the vehicle’s systems and components. This module can also transport unpressurized cargo and scientific payloads.

Spacecraft Adapter

The spacecraft adapter connects the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle to the launch vehicle and protects service module components.


Supported by team members across the country, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company leads the development effort as NASA’s prime contractor for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. The Lockheed Martin-led industry team includes a network of major and minor subcontractors and small businesses working at 88 facilities across the country. In addition, the program contracts with more than 500 small businesses across the United States through an expansive supply chain network.

Lockheed Martin facilities in California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana and Texas help support Orion’s design and development work. Additionally, Lockheed Martin has independently invested in a network of Exploration Development and System Integration Labs that spans from Arizona to Virginia. These labs conduct early risk mitigation and system–level analyses to help reduce project costs, schedule and risk. Subcontractor facilities have been instrumental in the design, fabrication and testing of myriad components and subsystems for Orion.

ATK’s facilities in Utah and Maryland tested the abort and attitude control motors for Orion’s launch abort system. Aerojet’s propulsion center in California has provided ongoing testing and verification for Orion’s powerful motors and engines and United Space Alliance’s Thermal Protection Facility in Florida has painstakingly handcrafted all of Orion’s thermal tiles. Hamilton Sundstrand’s engineers in Connecticut, Illinois and Houston have developed Orion’s intricate life-support and power systems, while Arizona-based Honeywell has developed intelligent avionics and software that support data, communications and navigation.

In addition to large aerospace contractors, small businesses from all socioeconomic interests have provided specialized skills and engineering services critical to Orion’s development. Risk management, life cycle cost, systems analysis, and propulsion trade studies are just a few examples of their expertise. Additionally, small businesses support all of the spacecraft’s systems with design, development and manufacturing of advanced space flight hardware.


Safer Sea Operations And Recovery

The post-landing Orion recovery test is a series of spacecraft evaluations performed off the coast of Florida by the Constellation Program Ground Operations Project recovery operations team and Orion in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense. The tests were designed to assess the performance of the Orion capsule mockup and recovery operations forces in post-landing conditions at sea. Test results will be used to help NASA understand the astronauts’ experience in rough waters and will assist the Agency with evaluating procedures, determining supplies, and developing training for rescue and recovery operations

Orion Parachutes Test

The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Parachute Assembly System is designed to ensure a safe landing for astronauts returning to Earth in Orion’s crew module. Orion’s system is made up of eight parachutes: two mortar-deployed drogues for stabilization and initial speed reduction; three pilots; and three main parachutes, which further reduce the speed of the module to its final descent rate of 25 feet per second. While the Orion system inherits some of its design from Apollo-era parachutes, there are several new advances.

Since Orion’s crew module is larger, the drogue chutes are deployed at a higher altitude to provide increased vehicle stability. Orion’s parachute system was designed with crew safety in mind: it can withstand the failure of either one drogue or one main parachute, and it can ensure a secure landing in an emergency, as witnessed during the successful Pad Abort 1 flight test. Before the crew actually flies in the vehicle, the system will undergo additional tests to validate the design and demonstrate reliability.

The NASA Johnson Space Center Engineering Directorate manages the parachute system development with design and testing support from the Agency’s contractor partners. Parachutes are designed and fabricated by Airborne Systems in Santa Ana, California; the mortars are provided through Lockheed Martin by General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems located in Seattle, Washington; and project management is performed by Jacobs Engineering’s Engineering Science Contract Group in Houston, Texas. Parachute system testing is performed at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona

Orion Launch Abort System Test

Orion’s launch abort system is designed to provide a safe, reliable method to evacuate crewmembers in emergency situations. Mounted over the Orion crew module, the launch abort system will propel the module away from the rest of the vehicle if an abort is required. The Pad Abort 1 flight test that occurred in May 2010 at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range was the first in a series of planned in-flight demonstrations of the three new solid rocket motors and parachute landing system, and served as a successful pathfinder for Orion system integration and ground operations procedures.

NASA celebrated a major milestone in the development of Orion’s launch abort system by completing ground tests of the system’s full-scale motors. The three new solid propellant rocket motors: an abort motor, an attitude control motor, and a jettison motor, work to ensure crew safety when the launch abort system is activated during emergency operations. The completion of the tests allowed for the 2010 demonstration of the entire launch abort system – Pad Abort 1.

In April 2008, the jettison motor became the first full- scale rocket motor test for the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The jettison motor is a solid rocket motor designed to separate the launch abort system from the crew module on a normal launch and to safely propel the abort system away from the crew module during an emergency. The static test firing was conducted by Aerojet Corporation in Sacramento, California.

In November 2008, NASA completed the 5.5-second ground test firing of the launch abort motor. The abort motor will provide a half-million pounds of thrust to lift the crew module off the launch vehicle, pulling the crew away safely in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the first 300,000 feet of the rocket’s climb to orbit. The December 2009 attitude control motor test, performed at ATK’s facility in Elkton, Maryland, was the sixth in a series of ground tests of Orion’s attitude control motor system. The attitude control motor is charged with keeping the crew module on a controlled flight path after it jettisons, steering it away from the launch vehicle in the event of an emergency, and then reorienting the module for parachute deployment.

Pad Abort 1 Test

The launch abort system includes three new solid propellant motors, which all performed flawlessly during Pad Abort 1. During the flight test operations, the abort motor fi red with approximately 500,000 pounds of thrust to drive the crew module from the pad; the attitude control motor fired simultaneously and provided the nearly 7,000 pounds of force required to maintain stability and vehicle trajectory, propelling the launch abort system to a height of approximately one mile; and the jettison motor separated the crew module from the launch abort system in preparation for parachute deployment.