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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 cyclosarin on 3/23/2011 5:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
This Capsule program is a step backwards.

People like you are killing the space program. You think the STS Orbiter is better because it fits into some idealized concept of space exploration.

Unfortunately the realities of space flight and the engineering and physics involved isn't sexy enough for you.

Despite the shuttles only being "orbiters," they were the next logical step towards developing and experimenting towards a full-fledged, independent "spacecraft."

How? How is adding wings, control surfaces, retractable landing gear and about 30 times the amount of thermal tiles help the STS Orbiter in spaceflight? You do understand that none of those work in space right? Their use is limited to about 30 minutes at the end of the entire flight. All of that extra mass requires extra thrust to get it into space. The only thing those do for it is to make it 're-usable.' That term is used only technically, in that the airframe is re-usable. The rest of the thing needs to be rebuilt after every mission making it take longer and cost more to relaunch than using a new disposable system.

...Nasa should instead be spending money on both a more efficient "Orbiter" that can extend beyond the boundaries of our own binding gravitational field and actually traverse portions of the void with freedom under its own will in a still limited fashion.

But they can't because you want a horribly inefficient design with grossly inefficient thrust/mass ratio just so it looks cool.

Going back to the Moon is he next step, to establish semi-permanent bases for research and observatories. It's easier to get to, easier to get back from and is easier to exist on than anything else we could possibly get to, this is the test bed for future exploration of the solar system.

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