NASA reviews Orion for manned spaceflight

NASA this week completed its first review of all systems for the Orion spacecraft and the Ares I and Ares V rockets. The review brings the agency a step closer to launching its next human space vehicle.


NASA said the review results for its Constellation Program provide the foundation for design, development, construction and operation of the rockets and spacecraft necessary to take explorers to Earth orbit, the moon, and eventually to Mars.


‘We have established the foundation for a safe and strong transportation system and infrastructure. It is a historic first step,’ said Constellation Program manager Jeff Hanley of NASA’s JohnsonSpaceCenter in Houston.


The system requirements review is one of a series of reviews before NASA and its contractors build the Orion capsule, the Ares launch vehicles, and establish ground and mission operations. The review guidelines narrow the scope and add detail to the system design.


‘We are confident these first requirements provide an exceptional framework for the vehicle system,’ said Chris Hardcastle, Constellation Program systems engineering and integration manager at Johnson. ‘This team has done a significant amount of analysis which will bear out as we continue with our systems engineering approach and refine our requirements for the next human space transportation system.’


As part of the review and analysis, NASA has confirmed the planned Ares I launch system has enough thrust to put the Orion spacecraft in orbit. In fact, the Ares I thrust provides a 15 percent margin of performance in addition to the energy needed to put the fully crewed and supplied Orion into orbit for a lunar mission. Engineers established Orion’s take-off weight for lunar missions at over 27,200kg.


Each Constellation project also is preparing for a narrower, project-level systems review in February and March 2007 covering the Orion crew exploration vehicle, launch support, mission support and space suits.


Once the project-level reviews are complete, the Constellation Program will hold another full review to reconcile the baseline from the first review with any updates from the project reviews. A review of equipment associated with surface exploration and science activities on the moon is expected in the spring of 2009.


The latest system requirements review is the first NASA has completed for a human spacecraft system since space shuttle development in October 1972. The Constellation Program system requirements are the product of 12 months of work by a NASA-wide team.