Names Lockheed Martin Orion Contractor
Lessons from the past are guiding NASA's next step into
the future, as the space agency prepares to replace the space
shuttle with an Apollo-style vehicle for human explorers.
in lunar orbit.
credit: Lockheed Martin Corp.
The vehicle is Orion,
named for one of the brightest and most recognizable star
formations in the sky. It will be a multi-purpose capsule -- the
central member of a family of spacecraft and shuttle-derived
launchers that NASA's Constellation Program is developing to
carry astronauts back to the moon and later to Mars. The first
flight with astronauts aboard is planned for no later than 2014.
Orion's first flight to the moon is planned for no later than
In what amounts to one of the most significant NASA
procurements in more than 30 years, two industry teams, Northrop
Grumman/Boeing and Lockheed Martin, spent the past 13 months
refining concepts, analyzing requirements and sketching designs
for Orion. On Thursday, managers of NASA's Exploration Systems
Mission Directorate revealed that Lockheed Martin Corp. of
Bethesda, Md., has been chosen to build it.
will be Orion's trademark. It is being designed to fly to the
moon, but could also be used to service the International Space
Station in low-Earth orbit. "Our intent is to keep the
destination focusing the design but we are not excluding the
possibility of using Orion for other things, such as de-orbiting
the Hubble Space Telescope in the 2020s or making a trek to an
asteroid," said Jeff Hanley, who manages the Constellation
Program from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
improves on the best features of Project Apollo and the Space
Shuttle Program, increasing the likelihood of success. "Going
with known technology and known solutions lowers the risk"
said Neil Woodward, director of the integration office in the
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. Although Orion borrows its shape and aerodynamic
performance from Apollo, the new capsule's updated computers,
electronics, life support, propulsion and heat protection systems
represent a marked improvement over legacy systems. We're pushing
the technological edge, but only where it makes sense," says
Unlike the winged space shuttle orbiter, which
is mounted beside its external fuel tank and boosters for
liftoff, Orion will be placed on top of its booster to protect it
from ice, foam, and other launch system debris during ascent.
Placing the spacecraft on top of the launch vehicle also allows
the addition of an abort system that can separate capsule and
crew from the booster in an emergency.
and a lunar lander head for the moon.
Lockheed Martin Corp.
Among the most obvious
improvements is the command module's size. Measuring 16.5 feet in
diameter, Orion will have more than 2.5 times the interior volume
of the three-seat Apollo capsules that carried astronaut crews to
the moon for missions lasting only several hours to several days
in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Orion will be crucial for
developing a sustained human presence on the moon. It will be
able to carry four astronauts to the moon and support missions of
up to six months.
"You don't get the chance to build
a new human spacecraft every day," said Skip Hatfield, the
Orion project manager in Houston. "This is a wonderful
opportunity for NASA to learn from the things we've done in the
past, take the best of those activities, and blend them together
using the latest methods of manufacturing and management to make
a system that will enable us to go out and explore beyond
Hatfield and Hanley noted that NASA
is leveraging the talent and resources of the entire agency in
the design and development of Orion. While Constellation Program
management resides at Johnson, all 10 of the agency's field
centers are making important contributions.
with Lockheed Martin has a seven-year base valued at about $3.9
billion for design, development, testing and evaluation of the
new spacecraft. Production and sustaining engineering activities
are contract options worth more than $4 billion through 2019.
/ credit: NASA