Recovery Act gives Orion project a boost

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Lockheed Martin is building an Orion crew module GTA at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. Recovery Funds will be used to design the Service Module GTA and its associated tooling.
NASA’s Orion crew exploration vehicle is America’s next-generation spacecraft that will transport astronauts to the International Space Station and beyond following the retirement of the space shuttle. Its design will sustain human exploration with flexibility and capability for the next 30 to 50 years. Orion’s solar arrays, avionics and other components can be easily upgraded in the future to continue to improve vehicle safety, functionality and cost.

NASA is utilizing funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to accelerate the work progress on the Orion. The total award amount of $165.9 million is a modification to an existing contract with Lockheed Martin Corporation of Denver, Colo. and became effective on August 18.

“The purpose of the stimulus and recovery is to complete unfunded work or accelerate work planned in the out years,” said Michael Darby, NASA Constellation Program Level II Integrator, Constellation Recovery Act Project.

“The additional funding makes it possible to do the work sooner rather than later.”

The crew module GTA TPS composite backshell lay-up molds arrived at LM in Denver. The composite material being utilized is a new cutting edge material that can withstand much higher temperatures than typical composite materials.
The crew module GTA TPS composite backshell lay-up molds arrived at LM in Denver. The composite material being utilized is a new cutting edge material that can withstand much higher temperatures than typical composite materials.
An important aspect of the plan is testing of materials and spacecraft systems to better understand their limitations and help ensure mission safety and success. Materials and processing testing will include thermal protection systems advanced materials, advanced aluminum alloys and titanium fasteners.

“This work will improve crew safety,” Darby said. “The stimulus funds we are providing for crew safety will be used to enhance technology development to better protect and provide for the crew.”

Funds also will be used to reduce schedule risk by purchasing long lead components and moving forward with design of Orion Engineering Development Units (EDUs) including: avionics systems integrated circuit builds; communication systems hardware; avionics integrated lab testing infrastructure; docking hatches; light-weight window materials; and propulsion and environmental control system units.

“By building the EDUs early, we can troubleshoot and make fixes early to avoid impact to schedule and resources,” said Bob Floyd, Deputy Manager, Project Planning and Control, Project Orion, Crew Exploration Vehicle. “We test the performance of the unit and its fabrication process before we build the final version.”

Technical risk will be reduced by increasing fidelity on the Orion ground test article and adding a Service Module. This will help provide better test results and understanding of the Orion structural loads environment instead of relying on analysis from computer aided models.

“An example of a critical purchase is the higher fidelity titanium heat shield that will closer resemble the flight article for additional engineering, testing and validation of our landing loads,” Floyd said.

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A high-angle view of the GTA. When completed, this first full-sized, flight-like crew module will be tested on the ground in equivalent flight-like environments, including static vibration, acoustics and water landing loads.
Orion ARRA funding will be spent in fiscal year 2010 and will significantly contribute to the overall progress of Orion and the Constellation Program. The Orion Project is taking the results of its Preliminary Design Review into the independent review process to be formally ratified by the agency. In the coming months we look forward to the Pad Abort 1 flight test, the completion of our ground test article and the movement of hundreds of hardware items from our suppliers into the development tests that are important to Orion’s development.

Neesha Hosein
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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