Category Archives: Journey to Mars

Orion Team Makes Headway Stateside and Abroad

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The Orion Crew Module and Service Module

The Orion crew module is hoisted above a test fixture at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (left); the service module flight model for Exploration Mission-1 arrives in Germany.

Engineers building spacecraft are used to a bit of pressure, but the team assembling and testing Orion at locations across the United States and abroad are preparing for the kind of pressure they like.

In the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Orion’s crew module is being assembled, a team from NASA and Lockheed Martin is getting ready for Orion’s proof pressure testing, an evaluation that will help verify the structural integrity of Orion’s underlying structure known as the pressure vessel. The work is an important milestone on Orion’s journey toward its mission beyond the moon atop the Space Launch System rocket in 2018. Last week, the team moved it to a new testing structure in advance of the evaluation.

At NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, engineers started testing a structural representation of the service module with sound pressure and vibration to make sure the component, which powers, propels, cools and provides consumables like air and water in space for Orion, can withstand the noise and shaking of launch. Meanwhile, at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, engineers are already in the thick of a series of tests that began earlier this month where a representative Orion crew capsule with crash test dummies inside is dropped in Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin to understand what the spacecraft and astronauts may experience when landing in the Pacific Ocean after deep-space missions. Langley engineers have already completed three tests in the series and will next add spacesuits and helmets to the test dummies inside to gather more data.

While the stateside team continues to put the crew module through its technical paces, the European team manufacturing Orion’s service module has also been making progress. This week the first flight module of the Orion service module, provided by ESA (European Space Agency), was delivered by Thales Alenia Space to the Airbus Defence and Space, which is building it, to its location in Bremen, Germany. There, elements of the service module will be integrated before it’s shipped to Florida for integration with the rest of the Orion spacecraft early next year.

Engineers Test New Acoustics Method on Flown Orion

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Acoustic Testing on Orion

Direct Field Acoustic Testing is being conducted on the flown Orion crew module. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Engineers at Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s facility near Denver are assessing a new acoustic test method on the space-flown Orion crew module.

Direct Field Acoustic testing uses more than 1,500 customized, high-energy speakers configured in a circle around the vehicle. This test simulates the intense acoustic loads Orion will experience during launch and ascent on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.  If this test method passes all necessary evaluations it will be used to verify Orion’s ability to withstand SLS acoustic loads during its next mission, Exploration Mission-1.

Orion Loaded into Work Stand at Kennedy

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Orion at Kennedy Space Center

Orion is lowered onto a work stand in the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Engineers loaded the Orion pressure vessel, or underlying structure of the crew module, into a work stand in the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 2. The pressure vessel’s seven large pieces were welded together at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans between September 2015 and January 2016. It will fly thousands of miles beyond the moon on Exploration Mission-1.

The pressure vessel provides a sealed environment to support astronauts and is key for future human-rated crew modules. The Orion team will test the pressure vessel to make sure it’s structurally sound and then begin outfitting it with the spacecraft’s other systems and subsystems. Over the next 18 months, more than 100,000 components will arrive to Kennedy for integration into Orion. Check out more photos of Orion’s trip to Kennedy.

Orion Pressure Vessel Heads to Florida

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NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft

NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft will transport the underlying structure of Orion from New Orleans to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The pressure vessel, or underlying structure, of Orion for Exploration Mission-1 is heading to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The pressure vessel was assembled at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where technicians welded together its seven large aluminum pieces in detailed fashion over the course of about four months. It will travel to Kennedy on the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft. Once it arrives, engineers will unload it into a fixture in the Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building where it will undergo testing and be outfitted with Orion’s systems and subsystems.

Second Weld for Orion’s Primary Structure

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 technicians Weld Together Orion

At Michoud Assembly Facility, technicians welded together Orion’s barrel and aft bulkhead inside a tooling structure.

Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans continue to weld together the primary structure of the Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission-1. Technicians recently joined the spacecraft’s barrel section, which is the round middle part of the spacecraft, to the aft bulkhead, which is the bottom portion of the crew module. Orion’s primary structure is composed of seven large pieces that are put together in detailed order. Orion’s three cone panels next will be welded together. Once completed, the structure will be shipped from Michoud to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Orion’s systems and subsystems will be integrated and processed before launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket.

NASA Appoints Mark Kirasich to Serve as Orion Program Manager

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Mark Kirasich

NASA has appointed Mark Kirasich to be manager of the agency’s Orion Program. Credits: NASA/Bill Stafford

NASA has appointed Mark Kirasich to be manager of the agency’s Orion Program. The Orion spacecraft is being developed to send astronauts to deep space destinations, such as an asteroid and ultimately to Mars, launching on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket.

Kirasich has been deputy Orion Program manager since 2006. He now will be responsible for oversight of design, development and testing of the Orion spacecraft, as well as spacecraft manufacturing already underway at locations across the country and in Europe for ESA (European Space Agency).

“Mark brings a wealth of knowledge about NASA’s human spaceflight efforts to the Orion Program manager position,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. “By overseeing the team and the work needed to send Orion to deep space, and working directly with our international partner ESA to provide the spacecraft’s service module, his leadership will be essential to enabling humans to pioneer farther into the solar system and continue our journey to Mars.”

Kirasich began his NASA career in 1983 at Johnson Space Center as a member of the space shuttle flight operations team, quickly advancing to the position of lead space shuttle payload officer in mission control. In 1996, he was selected as a flight director in charge of planning and executing NASA human spaceflight missions, serving in that capacity for multiple space shuttle missions and International Space Station expeditions.

“I have seen firsthand Mark’s impact on the Orion Program, and previously in key operations leadership roles at Johnson, and I look forward to having him help us extend the success of Orion’s 2014 flight test forward,” said JSC Director Ellen Ochoa.

Kirasich succeeds Mark Geyer, who became JSC’s deputy director in August.

A native of Chicago, Kirasich received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1982 from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1983 from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and Space Flight Awareness Award, as well as a JSC Director’s Commendation.

Across the country, elements of the Orion spacecraft are coming together for the first integrated mission with the Space Launch System. At NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, welding began in September on the next Orion destined for space. Next month, NASA will see the arrival of a test version of Orion’s service module, provided by ESA, for testing and analysis at the agency’s Plum Brook Station, near Sandusky, Ohio.

For more information about Orion, click here.