space shuttle fleet retiring this year, NASA has been working on future
spacecraft that will be used to take astronauts into orbit and possibly to the
ISS, the moon, and beyond. Lockheed Martin, the company developing the Orion
spacecraft, leads the future spacecraft development. Lockheed has now
officially unveiled the first of the Orion spacecraft at
its new Space Operations Simulation Center (SOSC).
The new SOSC is a massive building in Colorado that is situated on a 1,700-foot
deep bedrock formation and then isolated from local seismic disturbance. The
facility encompasses 41,000 square feet and was constructed to be green with
the LEED gold rating for efficiency and energy savings. The landscape is made
with native vegetation to conserve water.
The facility is currently being used to support the integrated testing of
Orion's Relative Navigation system including the STORRM system that is the
navigation and docking system that Orion will use. The STORRM system will be
tested aboard shuttle mission STS-134 and is one of the major systems that has
to be tested before the Orion can attempt an orbital test flight, which is
currently set for 2013. Lockheed claims that the SOSC is critical to the
development, evaluation and testing of spacecraft and systems to ensure that
space flight is safe for human and robotic personnel.
“Lockheed Martin built this remarkable facility to develop and test spacecraft
systems, further demonstrating our commitment to improve safety and advance
capabilities for future U.S. human spaceflight,” said John Karas, vice
president and general manager for Lockheed Martin’s Human Space Flight
programs. “Our collective expertise in systems integration, planetary
exploration and human spaceflight operations will help ensure success for our
nation’s next generation space transportation system.”
Lockheed is the prime contractor on the Orion exploration spacecraft that can
visit destinations throughout the solar system. The spacecraft includes a crew
module, a cargo transport, a service module for propulsion, electric power, and
fluids storage and a spacecraft adapter for securing it to the launch vehicle. Prep work for the Orion started in 2010.
“Our nation’s next bold step in exploration could begin by 2016,” said Karas.
“Orion was designed from inception to fly multiple, deep-space missions. The
spacecraft is an incredibly robust, technically advanced vehicle capable of
safely transporting humans to asteroids, Lagrange Points and other deep space
destinations that will put us on an affordable and sustainable path to Mars.”