January 15, 2013
NASA Employs Private Companies To Make Orion Project A Reality By 2014
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
To ensure that the future of the US space exploration program keeps its head above water, NASA´s Kennedy Space Center has partnered with the private sector to get Orion rolling out the door. By employing outside workers, NASA has provided a means to expedite the Orion spaceship building process from months to just days.
Working with contractors from Lockheed Martin, NASA is working hard at Kennedy´s Operations and Checkout Building preparing Orion for its first launch (Exploration Flight Test-1 or EFT-1) in 2014. Orion is being designed to ferry American astronauts farther into space than ever before.
The cooperativeness is allowing the Orion team to achieve scheduling milestones much faster than it would have if NASA kept the program as an inside job only.
“This new and unique working relationship, in essence having a Lockheed Martin factory within a NASA facility, has allowed us to leverage Lockheed's strength in building spacecraft and the strength of our Kennedy workforce in providing world-class services and facilities,” Scott Wilson, manager of production operations for the Orion program, said in a statement.
Wilson said several processing milestones have been achieved in preparation of EFT-1. The team has ensured that the spacecraft will be ready for a 2014 launch, and with the assistance of engineers and technicians from a number of different companies, as well as those working for NASA, has also ensured that issues arising during the on-site assembly and preparation of Orion have been met and diffused.
Other major milestones that lie ahead will be testing the crew module, powering up the vehicle for the first time, completing subsystem installations, assembling the service module and launch abort system, and joining the crew and service modules together.
“We are extremely proud of the exceptional effort the team has demonstrated in preparing the Orion crew module for a recent critical pressurization test. This test was a key milestone in our march toward orbital flight in 2014,” Wilson added.
By relying on outside help to get Orion off the ground, the NASA team is ensuring that numerous capabilities are in place to provide unique solution to unusual or urgent problems that arise during development and preparations.
One example of these capabilities comes from the Space Shuttle program.
“One of the unique capabilities here at Kennedy is the ability to fabricate, install and repair thermal tiles," said Terri Holbert, project lead engineer for Assembly, Integration and Production on the Orion project. "The team that performed this work for the space shuttle is now executing the tile build for Orion."
And NASA is also relying on contributions from other fields that are offering solutions for hardware and chemical analysis, materials testing, mechanical design, fabrication and rapid prototyping, as well as pyrotechnics testing on heat shield tiles.
The confluence of members working to make Orion a reality gives NASA a pretty safe guarantee that the flight test aboard a Delta IV Heavy Rocket is definitely ahead of schedule.
Once all final preparations are made, the spacecraft will make a two-orbit journey, reaching an altitude of 3,600 miles above the Earth´s surface–more than 15 times farther than the International Space Station´s orbital position–and sending it farther than any manned spacecraft has gone since the Apollo program.
NASA is planning a media briefing on Wednesday January 16 at 17:30 CET to go over details of ESA´s involvement in the Orion project. ESA will provide the Service Module for the Orion spacecraft mission in 2017.