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Orion at the SOSC for testing  (Source: Lockheed)
Unveiling was at Lockheed's fancy new SOSC in Colorado

With the 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.”

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RE: Awesome
By bh192012 on 3/23/2011 12:33:57 PM , Rating: 2
Huh? Then how did the Russians build their half of ISS? How did they build Mir? How did we build Skylab?

Why couldn't Hubble have been repaired? We've had spacewalks since before the shuttle.

I'm not trying to argue for or against whether the shuttle was a step forward or not, just that your examples seem weak.

RE: Awesome
By Nfarce on 3/23/2011 1:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
The Russians took up smaller pieces. And I intentionally mentioned "other nations" only and didn't reference the Russians.

And yes, we did tethered space walks with the 3-man Apollo and 2-man Gemini capsule programs (Gemini being the first for that). But the shuttle has that cool thing called a robotic arm. And the Hubble's primary replacement lens is 8' in diameter. Not sure how that could have been carried in a capsule rocket, especially with the additional protection gear required of it.

RE: Awesome
By maven81 on 3/23/2011 2:47:23 PM , Rating: 2
"The Russians took up smaller pieces."

Wrong, they in fact took up the some of the largest pieces. And are scheduled to lift the single largest module next year.

RE: Awesome
By Nfarce on 3/23/2011 6:18:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not in the early build stages - and I forgot to mention the carry-back-to-earth part of the ISS program the shuttle was involved with.

The Russian "Progress" spacecraft delivered cargo, but couldn't return anything as it is expendable only after delivering its load.

RE: Awesome
By maven81 on 3/23/2011 11:37:44 PM , Rating: 2
"Not in the early build stages"

I don't know why you continuously spout stuff that's false when it can be verified with a simple google search. Zarya The very first module launched way back in 1998 was 43,000lbs. It's larger and heavier then most of the modules that followed. It should be obvious that a space shuttle is not required for the heavy lifting. I'll give you the part about being able to bring things back down to earth though. However that capability has not been used very frequently on large cargo.

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