[meteorite-list] NASA Completes Key Milestone for Orion Spacecraft in Support of Journey to Mars
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 2015 16:04:51 -0700 (PDT)
September 16, 2015
NASA Completes Key Milestone for Orion Spacecraft in Support of Journey to Mars
NASA's mission to send astronauts to deep space destinations where no other
human has traveled has taken another important step forward with the
completion of a critical milestone for the Orion spacecraft currently in
Agency officials have completed a rigorous technical and programmatic review,
confirming continued support of the program and establishing NASA's
commitment to the program's technical, cost, and schedule baseline. This is
the first time NASA has reached this level of progress for a spacecraft
designed to take humans into deep space beyond the moon, including to an
asteroid placed in lunar orbit and on the journey to Mars.
"Our work to send humans out into the solar system is progressing," said
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Orion is a key piece of the flexible
architecture that will enable humanity to set foot on the Red Planet, and we
are committed to building the spacecraft and other elements necessary to make
this a reality."
A successful test of an uncrewed Orion capsule, Exploration Flight Test-1
(EFT-1), flew in December 2014, providing important data that allowed
engineers to identify risks associated with deep space flight and re-entry
and use that knowledge to improve the design of Orion for its next test
flights, Exploration Missions 1 and 2 (EM-1 and EM-2).
Performance data has helped to improve manufacturing processes, as well.
Engineers have already incorporated many of these improvements into elements
of the EM-1 design, including the crew compartment or pressure vessel, which
now is in fabrication and assembly at companies across the country. The
vessel is comprised of seven panels or sections, and the first two of these
were welded together last week. When complete, this capsule will launch
on NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on the first fully integrated
flight test, EM-1.
Astronauts will fly on Orion for the first time on EM-2. That mission will
build on the results of the EM-1 flight with additional requirements that the
Orion capsule includes fully integrated environmental control and life
support systems; controls; and communications designed specifically for the
human operation; and advanced launch and re-entry spacesuits for the crew.
The recent review, culminating in what is known within NASA as Key Decision
Point C (KDP-C), includes all of these technological advancements, and
approval represents agency support for this work and the Orion program plan.
The decision commits NASA to a development cost baseline of $6.77 billion
from October 2015 through the first crewed mission (EM-2) and a commitment to
be ready for a launch with astronauts no later than April 2023. The
commitment is consistent with funding levels in the president's budget
request. Conservative cost and schedule commitments outlined in the KDP-C
align the Orion Program with program management best practices that account
for potential technical risks and budgetary uncertainty beyond the program's
"As we take these steps to develop the capabilities we need to send
astronauts deep into space, we're also aligning how we manage our human
exploration systems development programs to ensure we are prepared for
unforeseen future hurdles," said Robert Lightfoot, NASA associate
administrator. "We're committing to this funding and readiness level to
stay on the journey we've outlined to get to Mars."
Orion engineers now are executing a rigorous review of the spacecraft's
engineering design and technical progress of the vehicle systems and
subsystems. This critical design review (CDR) will demonstrate Orion is ready
to proceed to full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and testing.
NASA's SLS Program recently completed this milestone, and its Ground
Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program will begin its review this
"The Orion Program has done incredible work, progressing every day and
meeting milestones to prepare for our next missions," said William
Gerstenmaier, the agency's associate administrator for Human Exploration
and Operations at NASA Headquarters. "The team will keep working toward an
earlier readiness date for a first crewed flight, but will be ready no later
than April 2023, and we will keep the spacecraft, rocket and ground systems
moving at their own best possible paces."
In the coming months, Orion will complete its CDR; see the arrival of a test
version for the European Space Agency-provided service module at NASA's
Plum Brook Station near Sandusky, Ohio; perform a series of parachute tests;
and complete the welding of the crew pressure vessel. Although Orion's
readiness date for EM-1 was not formally part of the KDP-C milestone
commitment, engineers continue to work toward a commitment for SLS and GSDO
to be ready for the uncrewed mission in fall 2018, and NASA will set an
integrated launch date after GSDO's critical design review is completed.
For more information about Orion, visit:
Received on Thu 17 Sep 2015 07:04:51 PM PDT