Engineer’s LLAMA Design Aids Orion Recovery, Earns Innovation Award

Jeremy Parr monitors the LLAMA during Underway Recovery Test 5 ion a ship n the Pacific Ocean
Jeremy Parr, a mechanical design engineer in Kennedy Space Center’s Engineering Directorate, monitors the Line Load Attenuation Mechanism Assembly, or LLAMA, on the U.S. Navy ship during Orion Underway Recovery Test 5 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. Photo credit: NASA

What is a LLAMA? It’s a Line Load Attenuation Mechanism Assembly, designed by Jeremy Parr, a mechanical design engineer in the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He designed the LLAMA to help U.S. Navy line handlers retrieve the Orion crew module after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

Parr is the lead design engineer for Orion Landing and Recovery, which is coordinated and led by the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program. Parr’s design recently earned him second place in the agency’s third Innovation Awards competition.

“The LLAMA concept came to me after watching the sailors fighting to control the Orion test capsule during Underway Recovery Test 1 in open water in February 2014,” Parr said.

The standard Navy line tending practice is to wrap their lines around the ship’s T-bits, or large solid columns with a crossbar that resemble the letter “t,” located near the stern, so that the sailors can control big loads with only a few people. This works for most operations they do since the hardware they handle is usually big and slower moving in the seas. But the crew module is a different beast when floating in the water than anyone on the recovery team expected, Parr said. Orion is easily pushed around by wind and waves.

“I came up with a design that helps the Navy line handlers to safely maintain high tension in the tending lines during recovery of Orion into the well deck of a ship. It also regulates the amount of tension in the lines to ensure equal loading on the vehicle.”

The LLAMAs are mounted on the ship’s T-bits, and the mechanisms provide all tending line control of the crew module once it enters the well deck and until it is secured on the recovery cradle pads.

“I am both excited and honored to be recognized for the LLAMA design,” Parr said. “This has been a team effort for a few years now to get where we are today. We worked through development and testing until we completed our successful test during Underway Recovery Test 5 off the coast of San Diego in the fall of 2016.”

The LLAMA-controlled tending lines are the baseline method for recovery of Orion after Exploration Mission-1 and all future missions.

Parr began working at Kennedy in 2007. Prior to that, he worked for SAIC at Johnson Space Center in Houston for four years.

Final Brick Installed in Launch Complex 39B Flame Trench for NASA’s Space Launch System

The final brick was installed on the north side of the flame trench at Launch Complex 39B.
A construction worker installs the final brick on the north side of the flame trench May 9, 2017 at Launch Complex 39B. Photo credit: NASA/Leif Heimbold

Intense heat and fire will fill the north side of the flame trench beneath the pad when NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft lift off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A project to upgrade the walls of the flame trench to withstand these conditions recently was completed.

All of the new heat-resistant bricks now are in place in the flame trench below the surface of the pad. Construction workers installed the final brick May 9, completing about a year’s worth of work on the walls on the north side of the flame trench to support the launch of the (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft on deep-space missions, including the Journey to Mars.

About 96,000 heat-resistant bricks, in three different sizes, now are secured to the walls using bonding mortar in combination with adhesive anchors. The flame trench will be able to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit at launch of the rocket’s engines and solid rocket boosters.

“The flame trench has withstood so many historical launches, and we are giving it new life to withstand many more,” said Regina Spellman, the launch pad senior project manager with the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program.

The north side of the flame trench is about 571 feet long, 58 feet wide and 42 feet high.

A new flame deflector soon will be installed that will safely contain and deflect the plume exhaust from the massive rocket to the north during launch. Two side flame deflectors, repurposed from space shuttle launches, will be refurbished and reinstalled at pad level on either side of the flame trench to help reduce damage to the pad and SLS rocket.