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Johnson team completes Orion Ascent Abort-2 capsule outfitting


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August 13, 2018

Engineers preparing for the Orion Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test hit another milestone Aug. 13 when the test vehicle left Johnson Space Center to undergo a round of acoustic testing at Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station.

This marked the completion of assembly for the crew module, outfitted at Johnson by the Crew and Separation Ring (CSR) team, which is responsible for producing the crew module and separation ring components of the AA-2 flight vehicle.

While these are large responsibilities, the team working to achieve them is small. The CSR team is made up of fewer than 250 people from Johnson, Langley Research Center and Armstrong Flight Center, supporting the larger mission to demonstrate the capability of the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System to safely carry crews away from the Space Launch System rocket in case of an emergency.

To accomplish a monumental task with a small team, CSR team members have taken on multiple roles, with each member being actively involved from conception to flight.

“The same people who developed the system concepts three years ago were the ones who got to build those components and do the testing and integration,” said Jon Olansen, CSR project manager. “Now they’re building on that expertise and being trained as flight controllers for the launch.”

Dr. Jon Olansen (center) trains as a flight controller for the AA-2 launch scheduled for spring 2019.
Dr. Jon Olansen (center) trains as a flight controller for the AA-2 launch scheduled for spring 2019.‚Äč Image Credit: NASA

This is not the typical NASA approach, where architects conceptualize, engineers design and build and flight controllers operate the spacecraft. For the AA-2 test next spring, the CSR team will follow their work to the launch pad, where they will serve as the flight control team for the abort test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This new style of work has built a truly engaged team.

“Being a part of the whole project lifecycle tends to make you into an involved stakeholder, which in turn makes all the challenges and hard work gratifying,” said Christina Deoja, power systems lead. “Thinking on your feet, constantly learning something new, and trying to solve problems as they appear makes work exciting and motivates me every day to do my part to make this project a success.”

CSR team members outfit the AA-2 flight vehicle to ensure the collection of accurate data for a mission abort scenario.
CSR team members outfit the AA-2 flight vehicle to ensure the collection of accurate data for a mission abort scenario. Image Credit: NASA

An example of this success came last week when the CSR team measured the crew module’s weight and center of gravity, which involved lifting and rotating the approximately 22,000-pound test article on its side using a specially designed cradle. The measurements were taken to ensure that the AA-2 capsule has the same mass distribution as a crewed Orion module to ensure accurate data collection for a mission abort scenario.  

The preparation for AA-2 has been a huge success as the multi-center team has worked ahead of schedule, enabling the AA-2 launch date to move eight months earlier than originally planned. Accelerating the launch date will allow data to be provided sooner to help inform Exploration Mission-2, the first Orion to launch atop a Space Launch System rocket carrying astronauts.

The AA-2 crew module will return to Johnson after acoustic testing at Plum Brook Station to be attached to the separation ring, which will connect the crew module to the booster for the test. After that, both the test article and the CSR team will head for Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final launch preparations.

The 22,000-pound AA-2 test vehicle undergoing weight and center of gravity testing using a specially designed cradle.
The 22,000-pound AA-2 test vehicle undergoing weight and center of gravity testing using a specially designed cradle. Image Credit: NASA

The CSR Project is a joint effort by the Orion Program and the Advanced Exploration Systems Division at NASA Headquarters.
 

Noah Michelsohn
Johnson Space Center
CSR team members outfit the AA-2 flight vehicle to ensure the collection of accurate data for a mission abort scenario.  Credit: NASA
CSR team members outfit the AA-2 flight vehicle to ensure the collection of accurate data for a mission abort scenario. Credit: NASA
Team members train as flight controllers in preparation for the AA-2 launch next spring. Credit: NASA
Team members train as flight controllers in preparation for the AA-2 launch next spring. Credit: NASA
Christina Deoja served as the power systems lead for the AA-2 CSR team. Credit: NASA
Christina Deoja served as the power systems lead for the AA-2 CSR team. Credit: NASA
Partial view of the flight control training room for the AA-2 flight test. Credit: NASA
Partial view of the flight control training room for the AA-2 flight test. Credit: NASA
AA-2 CSR team looks on at the AA-2 flight vehicle during a flight control simulated training. Credit: NASA
AA-2 CSR team looks on at the AA-2 flight vehicle during a flight control simulated training. Credit: NASA
The 22,000-pound AA-2 test vehicle undergoing weight and center of gravity testing using a specially designed cradle. Credit: NASA
The 22,000-pound AA-2 test vehicle undergoing weight and center of gravity testing using a specially designed cradle. Credit: NASA