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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 MrBlastman on 3/23/2011 2:55:28 PM , Rating: 2
Well when you invent a form of propulsion that negates the need for using winged flight for efficient (both resource and cost) ascent or descent, please, let us know. There are many NASA engineers who are eagerly awaiting a means to chops out these "dead weight" surfaces and components.


RE: Awesome
By maven81 on 3/23/2011 3:04:25 PM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about? All I was saying is that if you want to send missions beyond earth orbit, sending a winged orbiter complete will all the other components needed for a runway landing doesn't make any sense. Why would you launch a shuttle to the moon for example? You'd be wasting something like 30 tons (very rough guess) on parts that you will not need until landing. (and that's assuming they would even hold up to the far faster re-entry speeds on the way back. Winged craft make sense if you're going up and down all the time. They make no sense for anything beyond that. There a capsule makes far more sense.


RE: Awesome
By MrBlastman on 3/23/2011 4:57:29 PM , Rating: 2
You really fail at being a visionary, don't you?

The whole purpose of migrating to the next step is consolidation and prevention of having to launch first from Earth to move out of orbit to another body... all while using the same vehicle.

Yes, it might not seem "practical" to you at first, but, if you look at the "big picture," in the long run, we don't want to have our spacecraft or particular objectives completely and utterly reliant on the fact that their mission must start, every single time, from the Earth on the ground.

THIS is the true reason for all of this. This is also something that a capsule can not do, at least, in previous capacities. It can not take off, return to earth and take off again--while also being able to loiter in orbit, change orbit--and leave orbit after remaining in a fixed orbit for length of time to another massive body in space... All while being able to carry cargo in a self-contained unit.

The Apollo program was modular, yes, and for the time, it was the -best- we could do. I find it absolutely incredible we were able to go to the moon and back with the technology we had at the time. The next step though is removing the requirement for having multiple parts to do the whole job.

Yes, wings etc, weigh a lot and from a pure cost standpoint, add to the total bill the first few times, but in the long run, building a program on a more advanced concept will lead to economies of scale and cost reductions in the future through findings and discoveries we make along the process leading to an even more versatile craft in years to come.


RE: Awesome
By Nfarce on 3/23/2011 6:08:52 PM , Rating: 2
Just give it up Blast. You have the rocketmen and you have the wingnuts in this argument and the two shall never meet.


RE: Awesome
By maven81 on 3/24/2011 12:03:55 AM , Rating: 2
"in the long run, we don't want to have our spacecraft or particular objectives completely and utterly reliant on the fact that their mission must start, every single time, from the Earth on the ground"

You're not making any sense here. You don't want to launch directly from the ground, which means you want to mount some missions directly from orbit. For that you don't need something that will go from the earth into deep space, you just need something to deliver cargo to low earth orbit. This requires a modular system. Yet in the very next paragraph you say you don't want a modular system. You want one spacecraft that can do it all. Which is it?

"It can not take off, return to earth and take off again--while also being able to loiter in orbit, change orbit--and leave orbit after remaining in a fixed orbit for length of time to another massive body in space... All while being able to carry cargo in a self-contained unit."

Do you have any idea how much fuel and how much energy that would require? Also you just described a parking orbit. That approach has been used since the 60s. But to leave earth orbit you need to significantly increase your speed. Right now it's done with earth departure stages. We aren't going to see the X-Wing with chemical propulsion, sorry.


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