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Number Won 2015. 10. 3. 09:54

Oct. 2, 2015

Five Orion Technologies That Will Help Us Get Home From Mars

Orion Tech: Environmental Control and Life Support System

Orion Tech: Heat Shield

Orion Tech: Parachutes

Orion is a key piece of NASA’s journey to Mars. The spacecraft, which was first tested in space last year, will enable crew to travel to deep space on the journey to the Red Planet and bring astronauts home safely. It’s a critical technology we’ll use to help NASA test, demonstrate and hone the skills and capabilities we need to operate farther and farther away from Earth.

Environmental Control and Life Support Systems

Water. Air. A temperate environment. A bathroom. These are some of the things astronauts need to survive the long journey back to Earth from Mars. NASA has developed an environmental control and life support system on the International Space Station and is designing such a system for Orion. The system can recycle carbon dioxide and make it back into useable air and process urine to make it into potable water, for example. Right now on the space station, engineers and astronauts are testing a filtering system for efficiency and reliability on long-duration missions. The investigation uses an amine-based chemical compound combined with the vacuum of space to filter and renew cabin air for breathing. When astronauts travel home from Mars, they won’t be able to count on the arrival of spare parts or extra supplies if something breaks or gets depleted, so engineers are hard at work developing reliable and robust technologies to keep crews alive and healthy in space.

Radiation protection

Astronauts traveling to and from Mars will be far away from the protective shield of Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, and their spacecraft and its systems will need to be able to protect against the full spectrum of space radiation. NASA is working now to develop protective methods. 

Orion will use items already on board to protect the crew and create a temporary shelter in the aft bay of the spacecraft, which is the inside portion closest to the heat shield. This location minimizes the amount of equipment to move around while maximizing the amount of material that can be placed between the crew and the outside environment. The items that will be used include supplies, equipment and launch and re-entry seats as well as water and food. By using the items already on board, the astronauts benefit from additional shielding without adding to Orion’s mass.

Power and Propulsion

A spacecraft needs power and propulsion in space to refine its trajectory during the trip back to Earth. Orion will include a service module capable of helping the spacecraft make any necessary mid-course corrections. A service module provides power, heat rejection, in-space propulsion and water and air for crews, and NASA is working with ESA (European Space Agency) to provide Orion’s service module for its next mission in a partnership that will also bring international cooperation on the journey to Mars. The service module will provide propulsion, batteries and solar arrays to generate power and contain all the air, nitrogen and water for crews.

The ESA-provided element brings together new technology and lightweight materials while also taking advantage of spaceflight-proven hardware. For example, ESA is modeling several key components -- like the solar arrays -- from technology developed for its Automated Transfer Vehicle-series of cargo vessels, which delivered thousands of pounds of supplies to the space station during five missions between 2008 and 2015. NASA is providing ESA one of the Orbital Maneuvering System pods that allowed space shuttles to move in space to be upgraded and integrated into the service module. 

Heat shield

When an uncrewed Orion was tested in space in 2014, the heat shield withstood temperatures of about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or about twice as hot as molten lava. That heat was generated when the spacecraft, traveling at about 20,000 mph back toward our planet, made its way through Earth’s atmosphere, which acts as a braking mechanism to cause friction and slow down a returning spacecraft. Its speed was about 80 percent of what Orion will experience when it comes back from missions near the moon and will need to be even more robust for missions where return speeds, and therefore reentry temperatures, are higher.

Orion’s heat shield is built around a titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin that provide structural support. A honeycomb structure fits over the skin with thousands of cells that are filled with a material called Avcoat. That layer is 1.6 inches at its thickest and erodes as Orion travels through Earth’s atmosphere.


A spacecraft bringing crews back to Earth after a long trip to Mars will need a parachute system to help it slow down from its high-speed reentry through the atmosphere to a relatively slow speed for splashdown in the ocean. While Earth’s atmosphere will initially slow Orion down from thousands of miles per hour to about 325 mph, its 11 parachutes will deploy in precise sequence to further slow the capsule’s descent. There are three forward bay cover parachutes that pull a protective cover off the top of the capsule, two drogue parachutes that deploy to stabilize the spacecraft, and three pilot parachutes that are used to pull out Orion’s three orange and white main parachutes that are charged with slowing the spacecraft to its final landing speed. The main parachutes are so big that the three of them together nearly cover an entire football field.

Engineers are currently building the Orion spacecraft that will launch on the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, and will enable astronauts to travel farther into space than ever before on the journey to Mars.

Visit NASA on the Web for more information about Orion and NASA's journey to Mars.

Last Updated: Oct. 3, 2015

Editor: Mark Garcia

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,


Jan. 27, 2015

New NASA App Shares Excitement for Deep Space Missions

Smartphone and tablet users can experience the excitement of standing on the launch pad beneath NASA's massive new rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, with a new interactive app from NASA that previews the starting point for the nation's journey to Mars. Point the device up to see to the top of the rocket, or hold level to see the details of the solid rocket boosters and engines.

No matter where the user is, opening the scene viewer portion of the app shows what the device's camera would see if it were at the launch pad with the huge SLS rocket setting up for liftoff. Take a look at the scene from a catwalk on the mobile launcher, too. These views won't exist in real-life until NASA sends SLS carrying an Orion spacecraft to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon as the agency pioneers deep into space, but gives users a taste of what the powerful launches will entail.

"As soon as I saw that scene viewer, I think that's when we all knew we had something that people would enjoy and would be pulled into," said Andres Adorno, NASA's project manager for the app. "It gives people the perspective of being at the launch pad."

Called NASA 3DV, for 3-D view, the inventive app shows viewers 3-D models of the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System, the fixtures of NASA's push to send astronauts on deep space exploration missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars. The app also shows virtual models of the crawler transporter that carried the Saturn V moon rockets and space shuttle to the launch pad and is on tap to take the SLS and Orion on the same trip.

"It gives a true feeling of the things being built that are to come in the future," Adorno said.

Download the NASA 3DV app from iTunes here. - 

- UPDATE: Download the NASA 3DV app from Google Play here for Android - 

Media Fusion of Huntsville, Alabama, produced the app in conjunction with NASA.

"With the Scene Viewer, we are using the device accelerometer to determine the direction a person is facing and then orient a camera inside of a photosphere to emulate that action," said Jason Click, digital project manager with Media Fusion. "Because we also do our own 3-D modeling for certain scenes or use photosphere pictures provided by NASA, putting together the parts was a snap."

Users can even launch the SLS from the top of their desk, or off the floor, following the flight path with their phones. It's a unique look and approach for hardware that is under development across the country.

"The main focus was to show people where we're going in terms of human missions to deep space," Adorno said.

For a contemporary scene, the high bay of the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, also is available, complete with the Orion spacecraft and service module as they were readied for the flight test that took place in December to test Orion.

"With a NASA app, there is a much wider possible audience than many other apps," Click said. "Anyone with an interest in space exploration, in the USA or across the globe, is a potential user."

The app is available for iOS and Android-based devices. Future versions also could expand the views available in the scene viewer to take on more aspects of NASA's plans for human space exploration.

"At NASA, this is the first of its kind with the scene viewer and it offers all kinds of options for showing different rockets and spacecraft that the agency is working on," Adorno said. "So we'd like to take advantage of this to show people a closer look at everything NASA is doing in human space exploration."

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Steven Siceloff

Tags:  ESD (Exploration Systems Development), Journey to Mars, Kennedy Space Center, NASA Apps, Orion Spacecraft, Space Launch System,

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Dec. 10, 2014

Orion Returns

NASA's Orion spacecraft is offloaded from the U.S. Navy's USS Anchorage. The Anchorage retrieved Orion from the Pacific Ocean after it splashed down on Dec. 5 following its first flight test. Having traveled 60,000 miles in space and 600 at sea, Orion will now be prepared for a 2,500-mile road trip back to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Brian Dunbar

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

Dec. 8, 2014

Orion Recovery

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(Dec. 5, 2014) --- NASA's Orion spacecraft awaits the U.S. Navy's USS Anchorage for a ride home. Orion launched into space on a two-orbit, 4.5-test flight at 7:05 am EST on Dec. 5, and returned safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, where a combined team from NASA, the Navy and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin retrieved it for return to shore. It's now being transported back to shore on board the Anchorage. It is expected to be off loaded at Naval Base San Diego on Monday. Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Mark Garcia

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

Space Launch System

Oct. 25, 2014

NASA Marshall, North Alabama Companies Play Big Part in Orion's First Flight

The Marshall Center, Lockheed Martin and other North Alabama companies have provided critical support on the launch abort system and other key components of the Orion spacecraft, as well as the stage adapter, ahead of Orion's first flight in December.

Credits: NASA

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On Dec. 4, the Orion spacecraft will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket for a trip that will take it 3,600 miles above Earth's surface -- a historic journey that also will take with it the hearts and hard work of people right here in the Tennessee Valley.

During Orion's uncrewed test flight, several key systems will be tested: abort systems integration; computer and guidance systems designed to sustain a crew during space travel; and the heat shield and other critical landing systems that provide safe return to Earth. Flight data will influence future design decisions, validate existing computer models and innovative new approaches to space systems development, as well as reduce overall mission risks and costs.

Teams at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have provided critical support ahead of Orion's first flight. Marshall has fabricated almost 1,000 pieces of Orion flight and ground test hardware; conducted structural testing of the service module and crew module elements; and managed oversight of the launch abort system propulsion elements.

"Marshall and all of North Alabama should be very proud of the contributions that we have made to this mission, especially the complex launch abort system designed to enhance crew safety," said Larry Gagliano, Marshall’s deputy project manager for the Orion Launch Abort System. "A tremendous amount of effort from many folks in the area have helped ensure NASA’s deep space missions will be successful."

The launch abort system, positioned atop the crew module, is designed to activate within milliseconds on future missions to propel the crew module to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or climb to orbit.

The Orion fabrication and testing work at Marshall was a collaborative effort under a Space Act Agreement with Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Several Huntsville-area companies also provided flight hardware and ground support equipment, including Arcata Associates Inc., InfoPro Corporation, Teledyne Brown Engineering and General Products.

"We are thrilled to be working with NASA and the various contractor teams in preparation for this major milestone for Orion," said Terry Abel, project manager at Lockheed Martin. "We look forward to a successful launch and reviewing the flight test data that will benefit future missions."

Adapter Technology and the Delta IV

The stage adapter that will connect the Orion to the Delta IV Heavy for the flight was designed, built and tested at Marshall. Marshall also conducted pressurized testing for the adapter diaphragm -- which will keep gases away from the spacecraft.

"Our expertise was especially critical in building the adapter technology to connect Orion to the launch vehicle and in developing propulsion elements of the launch abort system," said Chris Singer, director of Marshall's Engineering Directorate.

Orion will be integrated with a Delta IV Heavy, a rocket built and operated by United Launch Alliance in nearby Decatur, Alabama. In early October, ULA engineers, technicians and representatives from safety, quality, security and other groups also ensured that the launch vehicle arrived safely at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37 ahead of the December launch.

"ULA is honored to have manufactured the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch Orion on its flight test," said Craig Langford, ULA vice president of Production Operations. "We understand the importance of this ground breaking mission for our customer and the insights it will offer for the future of human spaceflight."

Orion's flight test will provide engineers with important data about the adapter's performance and prepare Orion for future destinations aboard NASA's Space Launch System. When completed, SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for deep space missions, including to an asteroid and ultimately Mars. Marshall manages the SLS Program for the agency.

For more information on Orion, visit:


 For more information on SLS, visit:


Kim Newton
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Lee Mohon

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft, Space Launch System,

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Orion Spacecraft

Sept. 29, 2014

Rocket Boosters Prepared For Orion Spacecraft's First Flight

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Engineers took another step forward in preparations for the first test flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft in December. At the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF), at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, the three primary core elements of the ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket recently were integrated, forming the first stage of the launch vehicle that will send Orion far from Earth to allow NASA to evaluate the spacecraft’s performance in space.

The three common booster cores are 134 feet in length and 17 feet in diameter. Each has an RS-68 engine that uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant producing 656,000 pounds of thrust. All totaled, the three Delta IV boosters collectively generate 1.96 million pounds of thrust.

The upcoming flight test will use the Delta IV Heavy to launch the Orion and send it 3,600 miles in altitude beyond the Earth's surface. During the two-orbit, four-hour mission, engineers will evaluate the systems critical to crew safety, the launch abort system, the heat shield and the parachute system. The data gathered during the mission will influence design decisions and validate existing computer models. The flight also will reduce overall mission risks and costs for later Orion flights.

> Delta IV Booster Integration Another Step Toward First Orion Flight

Image Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Sarah Loff

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

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Orion Spacecraft

Sept. 17, 2014

Orion Short Stack

NASA completes the 74,000-pound Orion “short stack” at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, preparing the crew module for its first mission into space. The short stack, or the stacking of the Orion crew module, service module and spacecraft adapter, brings NASA a step closer to a new era of human space exploration.

In just a few months, Orion will travel 3,600 miles into space during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1. The two-orbit, four-hour unmanned flight test will help engineers evaluate the systems critical to crew safety, including the heat shield, parachute system and launch abort system.

The Orion crew module is designed to carry up to six astronauts to and from space. The service module, which was attached to the crew module last June, will house Orion's power, thermal and propulsion systems. The spacecraft adapter, the latest attachment to the stack, will connect Orion to the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket for this first flight, and to NASA’s Space Launch System on future missions.

Kennedy, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, along with Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin, played a critical role in designing and developing flight hardware for Orion.

Photo credit: NASA/Daniel Casper

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Bob Allen

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

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Orion Spacecraft

Aug. 22, 2014

Back Shell Tile Panels Installed on NASA's Orion Spacecraft

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Inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians dressed in clean-room suits have installed a back shell tile panel onto the Orion crew module and are checking the fit next to the middle back shell tile panel. Preparations are underway for Exploration Flight Test-1, or EFT-1.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The first unpiloted test flight of the Orion is scheduled to launch later this year atop a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to an altitude of 3,600 miles above the Earth's surface. The two-orbit, four-hour flight test will help engineers evaluate the systems critical to crew safety including the heat shield, parachute system and launch abort system.

> Engineers and Technicians Install Protective Shell on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft

Image Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Sarah Loff

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

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Orion Spacecraft

Aug. 4, 2014

Underway Recovery Tests for NASA's Orion Spacecraft

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A test version of NASA's Orion spacecraft floats inside the well deck of the U.S.S. Anchorage on Aug. 2, 2014, during recovery tests off the coast of California. A combined NASA and U.S. Navy team practiced recovery techniques over the weekend, in preparation for Orion's first trip to (and return from) space in Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) in December.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. After traveling 3,600 miles into space on the uncrewed EFT-1, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of 20,000 miles per hour and endure temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

> NASA Prepares for Second Orion Underway Recovery Test

Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Sarah Loff

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

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Orion Spacecraft

July 25, 2014

Orion Launch Abort System Rotated to Vertical Position

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The completed launch abort system for Orion's first launch in December was rotated into a vertical position on July 25, making room in the facility for the scaffolding that will allow it to be stacked on top of Orion's crew and service modules this fall. Almost 53 feet tall on its own, when stacked on top of the crew and service module, the vehicle reaches more than 80 feet into the air, and the scaffolding is necessary to allow engineers and technicians access for the final touches to be put on the vehicle before its rolled out to the launch pad and installed on top of the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into space.

The launch abort system is designed to protect astronauts if a problem arises during launch by pulling the crew module away from a failing rocket. It can activate within milliseconds to pull the vehicle to safety and position the module for a safe landing. Because there will be no crew on this first mission, only the jettison motor will be active in December. The tower structure will detach itself from the crew module as it would during a normal ascent. This flight test will provide information on the abort system’s performance during the vehicle’s trip to space.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Jerry Wright

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

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June 11, 2014


NASA's Orion Spacecraft Stacks Up for First Flight

With just six months until its first trip to space, NASA’s Orion spacecraft continues taking shape at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Engineers began stacking the crew module on top of the completed service module Monday, the first step in moving the three primary Orion elements –crew module, service module and launch abort system – into the correct configuration for launch.

"Now that we're getting so close to launch, the spacecraft completion work is visible every day," said Mark Geyer, NASA's Orion Program manager. "Orion's flight test will provide us with important data that will help us test out systems and further refine the design so we can safely send humans far into the solar system to uncover new scientific discoveries on future missions."

With the crew module now in place, the engineers will secure it and make the necessary power connections between to the service module over the course of the week. once the bolts and fluid connector between the modules are in place, the stacked spacecraft will undergo electrical, avionic and radio frequency tests.

The modules are being put together in the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) Cell in the Operations and Checkout Facility at Kennedy. Here, the integrated modules will be put through their final system tests prior to rolling out of the facility for integration with the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will send it on its mission.

Orion is being prepared for its first launch later this year, an uncrewed flight that will take it 3,600 miles above Earth, in a 4.5 hour mission to test the systems critical for future human missions to deep space. After two orbits, Orion will reenter Earth’s atmosphere at almost 20,000 miles per hour before its parachute system deploys to slow the spacecraft for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Orion's flight test also will provide important data for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and ocean recovery of Orion. Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have built an advanced adapter to connect Orion to the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch the spacecraft during the December test. The adapter also will be used during future SLS missions. NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, based at Kennedy, will recover the Orion crew module with the U.S. Navy after its splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

For more information on Orion, visit:



Rachel Kraft
Headquarters, Washington

Brandi Dean
Johnson Space Center, Houston

Amber Philman
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Karen Northon

Tags:  Asteroid Redirect Mission, Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

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Apollo 10

June 3, 2014

Apollo 10 was Moon Landing Rehearsal, EFT-1 Preps for Trips Beyond

The crew of Apollo 10, from the left, Eugene Cernan, John Young and Thomas Stafford are photographed while at the Kennedy Space Center. In the background is the Apollo 10 space vehicle on Launch Pad 39 B, The three crewmen had just completed a Countdown Demonstration Test exercise on May 13, 1969.

Credits: NASA

After dropping down to 47,400 feet above the moon's surface, Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan aboard the ascent stage of Apollo 10 lunar module, return to John Young in the command module on May 22, 1969.

Credits: NASA/John Young

The Apollo 10 command and service modules are photographed from the Lunar Module May 22, 1969 in lunar orbit above the rough terrain which is typical of the lunar far side.

Credits: NASA

Engineers and technicians continue assembly and testing of Orion in the Kennedy Space Center's Operations and Checkout Building. The spacecraft was suspended by a crane during recent trials.

Credits: NASA

Technicians move the heat shield for the Orion spacecraft inside the Kennedy Space Center's Operations and Checkout Building on May 15, 2014. The heat shield will help protect the spacecraft from the 4,000 degrees F heat of reentry.

Credits: NASA

An artist's impression of the first Orion spacecraft in orbit attached to a Delta IV Upper Stage during Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1). Ceramic tiles, similar to those used on the space shuttle, protect the back shell sides of the capsule.

Credits: NASA

By Bob Granath
NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

NASA recently marked the 45th anniversary of Apollo 10, the mission that served as the "dress rehearsal" for the first lunar landing two months later. The agency now is preparing to launch its first human-rated spacecraft capable of not only a trip to the moon, but beyond.

Apollo 10 was the fourth piloted mission in the lunar landing program, testing all the procedures and components without actually landing on the moon. The mission included an all-up test of the lunar module (LM) by the second crew to orbit the moon.

The veteran crew of Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan became the first to lift off Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 18, 1969.

As they arrived in lunar orbit three days later, the trio came from the back side of the moon and spotted their home planet rising above the moon's horizon.

"We just saw Earthrise and it was magnificent," Cernan said.

On May 22, Stafford and Cernan boarded the LM which they had named "Snoopy," after the Peanuts comic strip character. They undocked from the command module, named "Charlie Brown," leaving Young orbiting about 60 miles above the moon.

The LM's descent propulsion system engine was fired for 27 seconds, dropping down to a mere 47,400 feet above the lunar surface.

"We is down among 'em, Charlie," Cernan said to fellow astronaut Charlie Duke, serving as spacecraft communicator in Mission Control at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center).

On the next mission, the final powered descent to landing would begin from this altitude.

"It's a fantastic sight," Stafford said observing the moon's terrain. "It has different shades of browns and grays."

He and Cernan surveyed and photographed the Sea of Tranquility landing site chosen for Apollo 11, and practiced the approach that would refine knowledge of the lunar gravity needed to calibrate the powered descent guidance system for a landing.

Upon separation of the ascent stage, Stafford and Cernan rode out a momentary gyration in the lunar lander's motion due to a faulty switch setting. They then fired the ascent engine boosting them to a rendezvous and docking with Young in the command module.

The mission put NASA's flight controllers and extensive tracking and control network through a rehearsal. Except for the touchdown on the moon, the mission went exactly as a landing would have gone, both in space and on the ground.

Splashdown occurred in the Pacific Ocean on May 26, 1969, with the astronauts and spacecraft recovered by the aircraft carrier USS Princeton. While all lunar missions entered the atmosphere at similar speeds, Apollo 10 set the record for the highest velocity attained to date by a piloted vehicle at 24,791 mph during the return from the moon.

Describing the view out the window, Cernan said the re-entry was like being in "a ball of white and violet flame."

Performance during re-entry will be a crucial focus of the upcoming Exploration Flight Test 1, or EFT-1, the first test flight of NASA's new Orion spacecraft.

Orion is designed to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before, serving as the exploration vehicle that will carry astronauts to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep-space return velocities.

"Measuring the performance of the heat shield and other thermal protection material is one of the main focuses of EFT-1," said Stu McClung, deputy director of Orion Production Operations. Based at Johnson, he is assigned to Kennedy to assist with preparations for the upcoming flight.

Set to launch on an unpiloted mission in December this year, Orion will be mounted atop a Delta IV Heavy lifting off from Space Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This test will evaluate launch and high speed re-entry systems such as avionics, attitude control, parachutes and the heat shield.

"The Delta IV Heavy will give us enough thrust to send Orion out 3,600 miles on the second orbit," McClung said. "That will allow the spacecraft to hit the atmosphere performing a high-energy re-entry at about 20,000 miles per hour. This will give us about 80 percent of the heating we'd have coming back from a deep-space mission. We believe this will be a very representative entry profile."

According to McClung, Orion's heat shield and other thermal protection materials incorporate technology from both the Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs.

"We've picked some of the best from both," he said. "The heat shield on the bottom and the edge shoulders of Orion is ablative material. The back shell sides will be covered with ceramic tiles similar those used on the underside of the shuttle."

Ablative heat shields were used on NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft. They work using a layer of plastic resin, the outer surface of which is heated to a gas to carry the heat away by convection. The layers of the ablative material simply burn off one at a time dissipating the heat energy.

Since each space shuttle would fly numerous times, a reusable material was developed using a thermal soak heat shield. This approach uses an insulating material to absorb and radiate the heat away from the spacecraft. The thermal protection material consisted of ceramic or composite tiles over most of the space shuttle's surface, with reinforced carbon-carbon material on the highest heat load points, the nose and wing leading edges.

"We have a great deal of historical data on Apollo re-entries," McClung said, "but Orion is a much larger vehicle."

The Apollo command module was 12 feet, 10 inches wide at the base, weighing 12,807 pounds. By comparison, the Orion command module is 16 feet, 5 inches wide at the bottom and weighs 19,650 pounds.

Engineers believe temperatures on the heat shield bottom will reach 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The sides of the capsule are expected to reach about 800 degrees F. McClung explained that information gathered on EFT-1 will pin down whether or not their estimates are correct.

"We have a good idea how Orion should perform on entry based on Apollo historical data and our computer models," he said. "We will have 50 to 60 sensors and 210 instrumentation channels on the heat shield out of a total of 1,200 on the spacecraft to gather data to tell us how the thermal protection performs."

Assembly of the Orion spacecraft is taking place inside the high bay of Kennedy's Operations and Checkout Building.

"The Orion heat shield should be fully attached by the end of May," McClung said.

Installation of the thermal protection tiles will be next. There will be nine panels of tiles placed on the Orion back shell. The tiles are manufactured in the Florida spaceport's Thermal Protection System Facility where experts gained extensive experience during the shuttle program.

"There were quite a few lessons learned and process improvements developed over the years we flew the shuttle," McClung said. "We're mainly using the same processes."

In the future, Orion will launch on NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System. More powerful than any rocket ever built, SLS will be capable of sending humans to deep-space destinations such as an asteroid and eventually Mars. Exploration Mission-1, scheduled for 2017, will be the first mission to integrate Orion and the Space Launch System.

"EFT-1 will be an excellent first test case," McClung said. "It will help us see how well Orion will perform on an actual flight."

Apollo 10 set the record for the highest velocity attained to date by a piloted vehicle at 24,791 mph during the return from the moon. NASA's Orion spacecraft will make a comet-like reentry through Earth's atmosphere depicted in this artist's rendering of the Exploration Flight Test-1 set for December 2014. The unpiloted test flight will send the Orion capsule plunging toward Earth at about 20,000 mph, about 80 percent of the heating experienced during a return from a deep space mission.

Credits: NASA

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Bob Granath

Tags:  Apollo, Apollo 10, Earth's Moon, Journey to Mars, Kennedy Space Center, NASA History, Orion Spacecraft,

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Dec. 24, 2013

Work on NASA’s New Orion Spacecraft Progresses as Engineers Pivot to 2014

A crane lowers the main parachute for installation on the Orion spacecraft inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The heat shield for the Orion spacecraft has been placed on a work stand inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Credits: NASA/Mike Chambers

Orion’s first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1, or EFT-1, is less than a year away now, and the team building the spacecraft is meeting milestones left and right as they prepare the vehicle for its debut.

The Orion crew module that will fly 3,600 miles above Earth on the spacecraft’s first mission is continuing to come together inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Since the heat shield that will protect it from temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit was delivered to Kennedy in early December, the Orion team has been preparing it for installation. They’ve placed it on a work stand and begun drilling the holes necessary to attach it to the module. The heat shield is scheduled be put in place in the spring.

Once the heat shield has done its job getting Orion through the Earth’s atmosphere after its two orbits around Earth, it will be up to the parachutes to do the heavy lifting, literally. A total of 11 parachutes will be used for various landing functions, but three main parachutes that together could almost cover a football field ultimately will slow Orion’s descent down to less than 20 miles per hour for the finale: a relatively gentle splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

The three main parachutes that will be used for EFT-1 were installed on the vehicle this month. A crane lowered each of the 300-pound main parachutes into place near the top of the capsule, and technicians in clean suits fit them into their compartments.  They’ll be deployed using three smaller pilot parachutes that pull them out after the preceding drogue parachutes have done the initial work of slowing the vehicle down.

While those activities are preparing the spacecraft in Florida, the rockets that will launch Orion into space are nearing completion in Decatur, Ala., home of United Launch Alliance’s final assembly facility. The core, port and starboard boosters of the Delta IV heavy lift rocket that will be used for EFT-1 are all final assembly, with the starboard section leading the charge. It’s currently in final acceptance testing, while the RS-68 engine was recently installed on the core booster, and the propulsion and wire harness assemblies are being integrated into the port booster.

The rocket is scheduled to be completed and shipped to Florida in the spring.

With all this activity wrapping up 12 months of arrivals, installations and tests, 2013 has been a good year for the Orion Program. In fact, the only thing that could top it would be 2014 and the launch of EFT-1.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: Mark Garcia

Tags:  Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

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May 3, 2013

Success Continues as NASA's Orion Parachute Tests Get More Difficult

A model of NASA's Orion spacecraft is poised to be dropped from a C-17 airplane 25,000 feet above the Arizona desert to test its parachute system.

Credits: NASA

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To test the Orion parachute system, engineers rigged one of the test capsule's three main parachutes – the middle parachute in this view – to skip one stage of its inflation, putting additional stress on the vehicle as it opened.

Credits: NASA

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A model of NASA's Orion spacecraft glides to a successful touchdown during a test of its parachute system on Wednesday, May 1.

Credits: NASA

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A test version of NASA's Orion spacecraft landed safely during a simulation of two types of parachute failures Wednesday, May 1.

In the test, conducted in Yuma, Ariz., the mock capsule was traveling about 250 mph when the parachutes were deployed. That is the highest speed the craft has experienced as part of the test series designed to certify Orion's parachute system for carrying humans.

› Watch a video of the parachute test

Engineers rigged one of the test capsule's two drogue parachutes not to deploy and one of its three main parachutes to skip its first stage of inflation after being extracted from a plane 25,000 feet above the Arizona desert. Drogue parachutes are used to slow and reorient Orion while the main parachutes inflate in three stages to gradually slow the capsule further as it descends.

The failure scenario, one of the most difficult simulated so far, will provide data engineers need for human rating the parachute system.

"The tests continue to become more challenging, and the parachute system is proving the design's redundancy and reliability," said Chris Johnson, NASA's project manager for the Orion parachute assembly system. "Testing helps us gain confidence and balance risk to ensure the safety of our crew."

Orion has the largest parachute system ever built for a human-rated spacecraft. The canopies of the three main parachutes can cover almost an entire football field. After reentering Earth's atmosphere, astronauts will use the parachutes to slow the spacecraft for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Testing irregularities allows engineers to verify the parachutes are reliable even when something goes wrong. The tests provide information to refine models used to build the system and Orion. Changes to the design and materials used in Orion's parachute system already have been made based on previous tests. Other government or commercial spacecraft using a similar parachute system also can benefit from the work done to validate Orion.

"Parachute deployment is inherently chaotic and not easily predictable," said Stu McClung, Orion's landing and recovery system manager. "Gravity never takes any time off - there's no timeout. The end result can be very unforgiving. That's why we test. If we have problems with the system, we want to know about them now."

Orion's next Earth-based parachute test is scheduled for July, when the test capsule will be released from 35,000 feet, a higher altitude than ever before. The first test of the parachutes after traveling in space will be during Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014, when an uncrewed Orion will be returned from 3,600 miles above Earth's surface. The spacecraft will be traveling at about 340 mph when the parachutes deploy.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Earth, Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

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Dec. 22, 2012


NASA'S Space Launch System Core Stage Passes Major Milestone, Ready to Start Construction

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The team designing America's new flagship rocket has completed successfully a major technical review of the vehicle's core stage. NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) will take the agency's Orion spacecraft and other payloads beyond low-Earth orbit, providing a new capability for human exploration.

The core stage preliminary design review (PDR) was held Thursday at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and included representatives from the agency and The Boeing Co. Boeing's Exploration Launch Systems in Huntsville is the prime contractor for the core stage and its avionics. Marshall manages the SLS Program.

"Passing a preliminary design review within 12 months of bringing Boeing on contract shows we are on track toward meeting a 2017 launch date," said Tony Lavoie, manager of the SLS Stages Element at Marshall. "We can now allow those time-critical areas of design to move forward with initial fabrication and proceed toward the final design phase - culminating in a critical design review in 2014 - with confidence."

The first flight test of the SLS, which will feature a configuration for a 70-metric ton lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond the moon, is scheduled for 2017. As the SLS evolves, a two-stage launch vehicle using the core stage will provide a lift capability of 130-metric tons to enable missions beyond low-Earth orbit and to support deep space exploration.

The purpose of the PDR was to ensure the design met system requirements within acceptable risk and fell within schedule and budget constraints. An important part of the PDR was to prove the core stage could integrate safely with other elements of the rocket's main engines and solid rocket boosters, the crew capsule and the launch facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Core stage designers provided an in-depth assessment to a board of engineers comprised of propulsion and design experts from across the agency and the aerospace industry.

"Each individual element of this program has to be at the same level of maturity before we can move the program as a whole to the next step," SLS Program Manager Todd May said. "The core stage is the rocket's central propulsion element and will be an optimized blend of new and existing hardware design. We're building it with longer tanks, longer feed lines and advanced manufacturing processes. We are running ahead of schedule and will leverage that schedule margin to ensure a safe and affordable rocket for our first flight in 2017."

The core stage will be built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans using state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. The plant continues modifying its facilities and ordering materials for construction of the rocket. Michoud has built components for NASA's spacecraft for decades, most recently, the space shuttle's external tanks.

For more information about the Space Launch System, visit:



To join the online conversation about SLS on Twitter, follow @NASA_SLS. To learn more about all the ways to connect and collaborate with NASA, visit:



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Kim Henry
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Commercial Space, Earth, Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft, Space Launch System,

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July 3, 2012

NASA Unveils Orion During Ceremony

The Orion crew module is lowered onto a workstand in the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Credits: NASA/Gianni Woods

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The Orion capsule that will make the first flight test into space was celebrated Monday morning as the cornerstone of a new era of exploration for America's space program.

The spacecraft's aluminum-alloy crew pressure module arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday, June 29, where it will be built up into a fully functioning spacecraft ahead of a test flight slated for 2014.

"This starts a new, exciting chapter in this nation's great space exploration story," said Lori Garver, NASA deputy administrator. "Today we are lifting our spirits to new heights."

Orion will be the most advanced spacecraft ever designed. It will provide emergency abort capability, sustain astronauts during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space.

The 2014 uncrewed flight, called Exploration Flight Test-1 or EFT-1, will be loaded with a wide variety of instruments to evaluate how the spacecraft behaves during launch, in space and the through the searing heat of reentry.

Later Orion spacecraft will take astronauts on missions to destinations far beyond Earth, such as to an asteroid and Mars.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to Mars," proclaimed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who joined Garver and other officials to welcome the Orion spacecraft. "We know the Orion capsule is a critical part of the system that's going to take us there."

Designed with astronauts in mind, Orion will take crews beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since 1972, when Apollo 17 completed the last moon landing. The Space Launch System, or SLS - a gigantic rocket akin to the Saturn V that launched the Apollo spacecraft - is being developed to launch future Orion missions to deep space. The first launch of the SLS, with Orion atop, is scheduled for 2017.

Astronaut Rex Walheim, who flew on the final space shuttle mission and has had a leading role in the development of Orion, said the capsule can be the principal spacecraft for 30 years of human exploration of the solar system.

"It's the first in a line of vehicles that can take us where we've never gone before," Walheim said. "It'll be a building block approach, we'll have to have a lander and a habitation module, but we can get there."

Although the design is reminiscent of the landmark Apollo capsule that took men to the moon, the interior of the spacecraft if significantly more advanced. Its guidance, navigation and life support equipment have seen significant improvements in size and capabilities.

"The systems on this spacecraft, it's bigger than Apollo and it has to stay in space longer than Apollo, so it has to be better than Apollo," said Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy and a former shuttle commander.

For now, the focus for NASA and Lockheed Martin, the spacecraft's builder, is on preparing this capsule for space in 2014. During the EFT-1 mission, a Delta IV-Heavy rocket from United Launch Alliance will lift the spacecraft into orbit. Its second stage will remain attached to the capsule and will be fired to raise the Orion's orbit to 3,600 miles, about 15 times higher than the International Space Station. The mission will last only a few hours, long enough to make two orbits before being sent plunging back into the atmosphere to test it at deep-space reentry speeds.

Assembly at Kennedy will take place in the high bay of the Operations and Checkout Building, or O&C. The O&C was refurbished extensively in 2006 and has been outfitted with large fixtures and tools to turn the aluminum shell of Orion into a functioning spacecraft complete with avionics, instrumentation and heat shield.

The space-bound Orion was welded at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, in the same factory that built the external tanks for space shuttle missions.

NASA's Ground Services Development and Operations Program, or GSDO, oversaw development of the mobile launcher that will provide a launch pad for the SLS and Orion missions. The program also refurbished Launch Pad 39B, designing a new pad structure emphasizing flexibility.

"A vehicle can come in any shape and any size and be able to launch from this pad," said Pepper Phillips, manager of the GSDO program.

The Orion program, based at Johnson Space Center in Houston, calls on multiple NASA centers to team up for the missions including EFT-1.

"Ultimately, we're going to fly as one big team," said Dave Beaman, Space Launch System spacecraft and payload integration manager based at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "The fact that we're two separate programs, and having the GSDO program here at Kennedy, it gets some early coordination going and gives a chance to iron out some wrinkles."

Although EFT-1 will be launched aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket, it will use a stage adapter design that also will connect the Orion to the SLS.

"You want to make a part that can be designed for the Orion flight, as well as the SLS flights so you only have to design it once," Beaman said. "We'll get flight data on the performance, which really helps."

The spacecraft arrived at Kennedy nearly 50 years to the day that the center was born. Both occasions give NASA a great chance to set future milestones that will be as celebrated as those already achieved, Garver said.

"It's a great day and great way to celebrate 50 years of success and talk about 50 years in the future," Garver said.


Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Commercial Space, Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft, Space Launch System, Technology,

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April 19, 2012

Test of the Orion Crew Vehicle's Parachutes

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JSC2012-E-041631 (17 April 2012) -- NASA conducted a test of the Orion crew vehicle's entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle's orbital flight test, Exploration Flight Test-1. The two primary objectives were to determine how the entire system would respond if one of the three main parachutes inflated too quickly and to validate the drogue parachute design by testing at a high dynamic pressure that closely mimicked the environments expected for Exploration Flight Test-1. Photo credit: NASA

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Earth, Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

March 2, 2012

Orion Parachute Drop Test, Feb. 29

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JSC2012-E-031888 (29 Feb. 2012) -- A test model of the Orion spacecraft with its parachutes was tested high above the skies over Arizona on Feb. 29. This particular drop test examined the wake – or the disturbance of the air flow behind Orion – that is caused by the spacecraft. This was the latest in a series of parachute drop tests conducted by NASA at the U.S. Army's Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz. Photo credit: NASA

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Earth, Journey to Mars, Orion Spacecraft,

Jan. 13, 2012

NASA'S Orion Spacecraft to Land in Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama

The crew module will make stops during a trip from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The planned stops include Jan. 24-25 at Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City; Jan. 27-29 at Victory Park and the American Airlines Center in Dallas; and, Feb. 1-2 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Engineers, program officials, astronauts and NASA spokespeople will be available to speak with the media and the public.

The Orion test spacecraft that will be stopping in Oklahoma City, Dallas and Huntsville awaits the start of its trip at White Sands Missile Range.

Credits: NASA

The full-scale test vehicle was used by ground crews in advance of the launch abort system flight test that took place in New Mexico in 2010. Orion will serve as the vehicle that takes astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, and the first orbital flight test is scheduled for 2014.

To see photos of the pad abort test, click here.

For more information on the each of the sites, visit:

Science Museum Oklahoma: http://www.sciencemuseumok.org

American Airlines Center: http://www.americanairlinescenter.com/

U.S. Space and Rocket Center: http://www.ussrc.com/

Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

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Oct. 14, 2011

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Bolden Touts Progress During Mobile Launcher Tour


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden talks with news media during a tour of the mobile launcher at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The ML will be used for the Space Launch System, a rocket designed to carry astronauts beyond Earth orbit. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

The view from above: The ML's tower reaches 355 feet up from the surface of the platform at the bottom. Adding in the height of the platform as it stands on pedestals like those at the launch pad, the top of the ML is about 400 feet above the ground. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

Looking up: The exhaust port cut into the ML's surface is about a third the size it will need to be for the Space Launch System. The ML was designed originally for the Ares I rocket, which has since been cancelled. To accommodate the new, larger SLS, the cutout will be increased to a 60-foot-by-30-foot rectangle.Phot credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

The Mobile Launcher includes a service structure on the platform, rather than relying on a structure in place at the launch pad. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

The Space Launch System as it will look standing on the Mobile Launcher at the launch pad. Artist concept: NASA
› Larger image A major part of NASA's recently announced heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) already is here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The mobile launcher, or ML, standing next to Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building will be strengthened and swing arms will be installed during the next five years to support the SLS, a rocket quite a bit larger than the Ares I launch vehicle the tower was originally built for, NASA officials said during a media tour of the ML on Oct. 11.

"I think it's exciting anytime you find that some asset you have is going to be able to be converted or transitioned to another program because it's one less dollar that you have to spend," Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, said while standing under the 355-foot-tall ML. "This is tremendous that we get to do this."

Bolden's visit to Kennedy on Oct. 11 came on the heels of last month's unveiling of the Space Launch System's design. SLS will be used to launch astronauts far from their home planet on voyages to the asteroids, the moon and Mars.

NASA also will build the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle spacecraft, which will ride into orbit on top of the SLS after lifting off from Kennedy's Launch Pad 39B, to make the trips into deep space.

With current planning calling for four space shuttle main engines and two solid rocket boosters plus an upper stage, the early version of SLS is reminiscent of the Saturn V that lofted Apollo crews to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, some of its technology is taken straight from the Space Shuttle Program.

Just as the rocket is a reminder of past successes, the mobile launcher also will be fitted with elements that were not needed for shuttle launches, mainly arms to feed and vent the liquid-powered engines' propellants. As during the Apollo/Saturn V launches, those arms will have to remain connected in some cases until the last moment, then they must swing quickly and safely out of the rocket's way.

Larry Schultz, the ML project manager at Kennedy, smiled recalling his first thoughts of the assignment to modify the launcher for a new rocket that eventually will be the largest launch vehicle ever built.

"Whatever they want me to do, I'll go design and build," he said.

Because the SLS will weigh two-and-a-half times more than an Ares I, Schultz said workers will retrofit the platform with stronger, larger support beams. The exhaust cut-out also will be widened from a 22-foot square to a 60-by-30-foot rectangle.

Currently, the SLS with Orion is due to make its first test flight, without a crew, in 2017, Schultz said.

Bob Cabana, Kennedy's center director, said the ML represents one facet of the changeover to allow the space center to become a multipurpose spaceport, serving several kinds of missions and rockets, both government and commercial.

Other elements of the change include basing two new programs at Kennedy, including the first at the center for human spaceflight, the Commercial Crew Program, or CCP. The 21st Century Ground Systems Program has also been established at Kennedy, charged with adapting and upgrading the center's infrastructure for the future, as well as managing the processing and launch for the SLS. Kennedy already hosts the agency's Launch Services Program, which handles launching NASA's science and research missions that do not involve astronauts.

Launch Pad 39B has undergone extensive work, with the removal of the shuttle's launch gantry and a million feet of copper cabling. Further modernization work will continue with the installation of fiber optic cables and the refurbishment of the flame trench. Pad 39B is being modified with the needs of several different rockets and spacecraft in mind, including those that commercial companies will operate.

Cabana said no one should have been surprised by the progress that's been made in the few months since space shuttles were retired.

"We have a clear path forward," Cabana said. "Change is extremely hard, but look where we are now, what we've done. I think we're in a very good position."



Last Updated: July 31, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

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