As NASA’s Orion Program continues developing and building the spacecraft that will fly to space atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket to new destinations in the solar system, we’re sharing our progress on Orion’s Flickr site.
There we have photos of recent visits by Orion Program managers to companies around the country which are building critical pieces of the spacecraft, engineers getting essential hardware elements ready for testing, images of the Orion that flew in space in 2014 and many of the people who have contributed their expertise, energy and time to develop, build and fly the spacecraft that will help push the boundaries of human space exploration. Check it out!
Orion’s crew module adapter (CMA) simulator arrived at NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio on June 22. The simulator was built at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and moved to Plum Brook for Orion service module testing scheduled to begin later this year. At Plum Brook’s Space Power Facility, the CMA and the service module provided by ESA (European Space Agency) will be integrated and then undergo acoustics and mechanical vibration tests that simulate the noise and shaking the service module will endure when the spacecraft heads to space atop the Space Launch System rocket. The service module is a critical part of Orion and houses all the air, nitrogen and water for crews, in-space propulsion, and batteries and solar arrays to generate power.
Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston continue to test the spacesuit astronauts will wear in the agency’s Orion spacecraft on trips to deep space. The Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit is a closed-loop version of the launch and entry suits worn by space shuttle astronauts. In addition, a next-generation suit will incorporate a number of technology advances to shorten preparation time, improve safety and boost astronaut capabilities during spacewalks and surface activities.
Check out this video on the legacy of 50 years of spacewalk activities that paved the way for future missions.
The construction of an Orion crew module and crew module adapter full-scale mockup has been completed at the Littleton, Colorado facility of Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion. This mockup was transferred to the company’s Orion Test Lab on May 13, where engineers will configure it with the exact harnessing, electrical power, sensors, avionics and flight software needed to support Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first flight of Orion atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. Orion’s team of engineers will use the mockup to verify the configuration of these vehicle components for EM-1, which ultimately saves assembly time and reduces risk. The mockup will then be connected to hardware emulations of the full EM-1 stack (Orion crew module, European Service Module, second stage booster and the Space Launch System) as well as ground support equipment. Once it’s connected, the team will simulate and test every aspect of the EM-1 mission from launch to splashdown. Orion will enable astronauts to explore new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and on toward Mars.
What do you need to bring, and how do you minimize the need for delivery of future supplies in order to establish a sustained human presence on a planet 140 million miles away from Earth?
NASA is embarking on an ambitious journey to Mars and has announced a challenge inviting the public to write down their ideas, in detail, for developing the elements of space pioneering necessary to establish a continuous human presence on the Red Planet. This could include shelter, food, water, breathable air, communication, exercise, social interactions and medicine, but participants are encouraged to consider innovative and creative elements beyond these examples.
Participants are asked to describe one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities and operations that are needed to achieve this goal and, to the greatest extent possible, are technically achievable, economically sustainable, and minimize reliance on support from Earth. NASA expects to make up to three awards at a minimum of $5,000 each from a total award pool of $15,000.
NASA’s efforts for sending humans to Mars is well underway today, with spacecraft monitoring Mars from orbit and rovers on the surface. The International Space Station is testing systems and is being used to learn more about the health impacts of extended space travel. NASA also is testing and developing its next generation of launch and crew vehicles — Orion and the Space Launch System.
More information and details on how to participate are here.
Orion took a large slice of the cake at the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) annual gala, held April 24 in Houston. The RNASA Foundation, which recognizes outstanding achievements in space and contributes to public awareness of the benefits of space exploration, awarded several team and individual awards, of which work on Orion took a large share.
NASA’s management team for Orion’s flight test in December 2014, called Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) and the industry team that supported the flight were both recognized with Stellar Awards for their efforts, while Orion’s hardware development team from Lockheed Martin, which is NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, was also recognized. Individual Stellar Awards were given to Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer, Orion Chief Engineer Julie Kramer White and several individuals from Lockheed Martin who contributed to Orion.
Bob Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Orion is put together and processed before launch, received RNASA’s top award, the National Space Trophy.
In this photo, several winners of the RNASA Stellar Award pose during RNASA’s annual gala. Mark Geyer, Orion program manager, is third from right.
This week NASA marked both Earth Day and the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s launch on April 24, 1990. The spectacular images of the cosmos provided by Hubble and the many photos and videos submitted by the public representing their favorites places on Earth as part of the agency’s #NoPlaceLikeHome campaign are a reminder of the incredible tools in space we have to explore new destinations and understand our home planet. On future Orion missions, astronauts will be able to gather spectacular imagery of Earth and other planetary bodies to help us explore places we’ve never been. Today, engineers across the country are hard at work developing and building Orion to make it all possible. This photo was Orion’s view from about 3,600 miles above Earth during its recent flight test.
It’s been five years since President Obama visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to outline his plan for America’s space program. The President’s speech took place at the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building, where since that time, Orion was processed and outfitted ahead of its first trip to space in December 2014. NASA-wide, significant progress had been made within the last five years, and the work to reach for new heights continues. Check out the progress NASA has made on our journey: https://www.nasa.gov/fiveyear
When NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) launches on its first flight, it will be doing some serious multi-tasking. Not only will Exploration Mission-1 test the performance of SLS and its integration with the Orion spacecraft – the agency plans to use its massive lift capability to carry nearly a dozen nano-satellites to conduct science experiments beyond low Earth orbit.
NASA’s newest rocket will launch Orion on an uncrewed test flight to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon. Tucked inside the stage adapter — the ring connecting Orion to the top propulsion stage of the SLS — will be 11 self-contained small satellites, each about the size of a large shoebox. About 10 minutes after Orion and its service module escape the pull of Earth’s gravity, the two will disconnect and Orion will proceed toward the moon. Once Orion is a safe distance away, the small payloads will begin to be deployed, all at various times during the flight depending on the particular missions.
These CubeSats are small nano-satellites designed to be efficient and versatile. The masses of these secondary payloads are light — no heavier than 30 pounds (14 kilograms) — and will not require any extra power from the vehicle to function. They will essentially piggyback on the SLS flight, providing what otherwise would be costly access to deep space. More information on the secondary payloads can be found here: http://go.nasa.gov/1BVKa92
In other deep space news, NASA announced on March 30 a series of new partnerships with U.S. industry for key deep space capabilities. The agency selected 12 Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) to advance concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of advanced propulsion, habitation and small satellites. Through these public-private partnerships, selected companies will partner with NASA to develop the exploration capabilities necessary to enable commercial endeavors in space and human exploration to deep space destinations such as the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cis-lunar space, and Mars.
Results from these studies and hardware developments also will help determine the role for international partner involvement, by fully exploring domestic capabilities, and for Orion and SLS missions in cis-lunar space. This work also will advance system understanding and define a need for further testing of habitation systems and components on the International Space Station. For more information about the partnerships, including the companies selected, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/nextstep
Across the country, teams are making progress ahead of the first flight of Orion atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket. At NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, engineers are testing spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts in Orion. The suit is a modified version of the launch and entry suit worn by space shuttle astronauts and is being upgraded to allow crews to conduct spacewalks and sustain them in the unlikely event Orion loses pressure.
At Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an adapter that will connect the Orion crew module to the service module built by ESA (European Space Agency) is being prepared for shipment to the Space Power Facility at the agency’s Glenn Research Center Plum Brook Station in Ohio. Once the adapter and a structural test article of the service module arrive there, testing will be done to evaluate how the service module endures the environmental conditions it will experience on launch day.
Orion program managers also recently visited NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, along with United Launch Alliance’s Decatur, Alabama facility, to thank employees for the work they did to make Orion’s December flight test successful. The week of March 23, the leadership team will visit NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which provided spacecraft communications support during the flight test, as well as NASA Headquarters in Washington.
To check out photos of Orion progress, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasaorion/