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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 maven81 on 3/23/2011 2:56:58 PM , Rating: 2
"Did you forget about the logistics of one of the main selling points of the shuttle being able to land, weather permitting, like a few thousand feet away from where it launched?"

What does that have to do with sending a spacecraft beyond earth orbit?

"You don't think NASA's aerospace engineers already factored that "dead weight" equation into the overall shuttle concept?"

Yes, and they miscalculated spectacularly. The shuttle was supposed to be cheap, and be able to fly dozens of flights per year remember? At one point the military was supposed to transition all of their launches to it as well. That never happened. The shuttle is extremely heavy. If if was built as a heavy lift rocket instead it could have carried at least twice the current payload.


RE: Awesome
By Nfarce on 3/23/2011 6:00:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
What does that have to do with sending a spacecraft beyond earth orbit?


Space travel is still going a round trip procedure the last time I checked. And I'm sure that will continue during colonization at some point in the future.

quote:
Yes, and they miscalculated spectacularly.


Since when has a government entity never done that? Remember that design project started on paper just like every other aircraft of the time of the early 1970s. Original concepts are one thing. Realities of the limitations of engineering are another.

quote:
If if was built as a heavy lift rocket instead it could have carried at least twice the current payload


Based on what data? And what cubic feet limitations would that "rocket" have had? Forget about weight. Bottom line: the Shuttle program was enormously successful for the time.


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