Orion Team Makes Headway Stateside and Abroad

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

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

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

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.

NASA Names Charlie Lundquist as Deputy Program Manager for Orion

Charlie Lundquist, Deputy Program Manager
NASA has selected Charlie Lundquist as deputy manager of the agency’s Orion Program.

NASA has selected Charlie Lundquist as deputy manager of the agency’s Orion Program. Along with Program Manager Mark Kirasich, Lundquist 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 county and in Europe. Lundquist has served as manager of the Orion crew and service module office since 2008.

“Charlie has outstanding program management skills and has played pivotal roles in many of Orion’s accomplishments, including Orion’s successful flight test last year,” said Kirasich. “As we manufacture and deliver hardware and software for Orion’s next mission during the coming months and years, his leadership will be essential.”

Lundquist began his NASA career in 1993 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in the Space Station Freedom Program and quickly transitioned into the International Space Station Program, where he managed the Russian Vehicle Project Office, serving as lead negotiator for all technical discussions between NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency. In 1997, he became deputy manager of the Element Integration Office for the space station, leading the multi-disciplinary team responsible for certifying the Unity module, the first U.S. element of the space station, for flight. In 1999, Lundquist was named deputy chief of Johnson’s Life Sciences Research Laboratories, developing and administering NASA’s operations and clinical research process to pursue research objectives aimed at improving health care systems and practices in space. He also served in several other positions in spaceflight research and the Constellation Program.

A native of Dallas, Lundquist received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1984 from the University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in biological science in 1996 from the University of Houston in Clear Lake and completed PhD coursework in biomedical sciences under a NASA fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, in 2001. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal and Silver Snoopy Award, as well as the JSC Director’s Award of Excellence.

Continuing Orion Progress

Orion Service Module
NASA is working with ESA and its contractor Airbus to provide the Orion service module for Exploration Mission-1.

NASA’s Orion Program continues to mark progress at facilities around the country toward the next flight of the spacecraft. Engineers at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, are preparing a structural representation of the ESA (European Space Agency)-provided service module for several months of testing to ensure the component, which supplies Orion’s power and propulsion, can withstand the trip to space.  The test article recently arrived from Europe. Meanwhile, technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are continuing the process of welding together the seven pieces of Orion’s pressure vessel for its next mission. See the latest images of Orion progress here.

Flown Orion Arrives in Colorado for Additional Analysis and Testing

Engineers Examine Orion
Engineers at Lockheed Martin’s facility near Denver examine Orion upon its arrival. Credit: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew into space in 2014 has completed its trek from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Littleton, Colorado, facility of Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Engineers will perform final decontamination of the crew module, continue post-flight analysis and evaluate a new acoustic technology to determine if the method can produce enough energy to simulate the acoustic loads Orion will experience during launch and ascent atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. Check out images of Orion and read more about the acoustic testing here.

Send Your Name to Mars on NASA’s Next Red Planet Mission

Get your Boarding Pass!
Get your Boarding Pass to fly your name on the Mars Insight Lander. Visit… http://go.usa.gov/3Aj3G

Mars enthusiasts around the world can participate in NASA’s journey to Mars by adding their names to a silicon microchip headed to the Red Planet aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander, scheduled to launch next year.

The fly-your-name opportunity comes with “frequent flier” points to reflect an individual’s personal participation in NASA’s journey to Mars, which will span multiple missions and multiple decades. The InSight mission offers the second such opportunity for space exploration fans to collect points by flying their names aboard a NASA mission, with more opportunities to follow.

Last December, the names of 1.38 million people flew on a chip aboard the first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts to deep space destinations including Mars and an asteroid. After InSight, the next opportunity to earn frequent flier points will be NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, the first planned test flight bringing together the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule in preparation for human missions to Mars and beyond.

Submissions will be accepted until Sept. 8. To send your name to Mars aboard InSight, go to:  http://go.usa.gov/3Aj3G

Countdown to Deep Space

Test of RS-25 Rocket Engine
NASA’s countdown to deep space continued Aug. 13 with a 535-second test of its Space Launch System (SLS) RS-25 rocket engine to collect engine performance data at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

On Thursday, Aug. 13, NASA engineers fired up a Space Launch System RS-25 rocket engine at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in the latest test to collect performance data that will be used to ready the engines for missions to deep space. Orion and the astronauts it carries will fly atop the Space Launch System on missions to an asteroid and eventually on the journey to Mars.

Space Launch System Hits Engine Milestones for Missions with Orion

Test of the RS-25 Rocket Engine
Engineers at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, conducted a successful 450-second test of the RS-25 rocket engine May 28.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will launch Orion on missions to deep space destinations like an asteroid and on toward Mars marked important steps this week to prepare for journeys beyond Earth orbit.

Engineers at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, conducted a successful 450-second test of the RS-25 rocket engine May 28. The hotfire test was conducted on the historic A-1 Test Stand where Apollo Program rocket stages and Space Shuttle Program main engines also were tested. RS-25 engines tested on the stand will power the core stage of NASA’s new rocket with Orion atop it.

One of the objectives being evaluated in this test is the new engine controller, or “brain.” The RS-25 is unique among many engines in that it automatically runs through its cycles and programs. The controller monitors the engine conditions and communicates the performance needs. The performance specifications, such as what percentage of thrust is needed and when, are programmed into the controller before the engines are fired. For example, if the engine is required to cycle up to 90 percent thrust, the controller monitors the fuel mixture ratio and regulates the thrust accordingly. It is essential that the controller communicates clearly with the engine; the SLS will be bigger than previous rockets and fly unprecedented missions, and its engines will have to perform in new ways.

Engine maker Aerojet Rocketdyne also completed RS-25 Engine 2063 at Stennis, after approximately three months of work. The new engine becomes the 16th assembled RS-25 flight engine in inventory for SLS flights. The engine will be one of four RS-25s used to power Exploration Mission 2, the second SLS launch with Orion targeted for the 2021 time frame. Testing of these four engines will begin later this year as work accelerates on NASA’s newest launch vehicle. Four previously-flown RS-25s will be attached to the first SLS core stage and test fired together as a stage before being approved for the first SLS launch planned for 2018, the first integrated mission with Orion. Check out more, including a timelapse video of the assembly here.