Space Shuttle Replacement: Deep Space Exploration System: Orion MPCV; Shuttle-Derived Space Launch System; Altair LSAM Lunar Lander
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(updated July 25, 2012) Exploration is the name of the NASA directorate that has overall responsibility for developing new launch vehicles and spacecraft.
The Lockheed Martin-built manned spacecraft component of the system, named the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV, formerly called the Crew Exploraton Vehicle, CEV), was originally intended to be operational by 2014 (with "boilerplate" tests by 2009 and unmanned flight tests of the actual vehicle by 2012), and to be capable of carrying astronauts to the moon by 2020.
Tests of the Orion Boilerplate Test Article (BTA) began in 2011. Testing of the more advanced Orion Ground Test Article (GTA) are expected to begin at Langley Research Center in late 2012 or early 2013. Construction of the first Orion for unmanned orbital tests began in September, 2011. The SLS launch vehicle for Orion is not expected to fly until 2017 at the earliest.
NASA August, 2011 press release on Orion boilerplate testing
On April 16, 2009, Constellation Project Manager Jeff Hanley wrote: "NASA is working diligently to achieve the first crewed launch of the new Orion spacecraft by March 2015..." Florida Today story
However, on September 26, 2011, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the Johnson Space Center announced that the first manned flight of the Orion was now planned for 2021 (over three years after the first unmanned SLS flight), and a Near-Earth Asteroid mission in 2025.
Like the Apollo spacecraft, the Orion will be divided into a "capsule" shaped Command Module (CM), which reenters the atmosphere, and a Service Module (SM) containing the main propulsion, avionics and consumables, which is discarded after use.
The Orion CM will be larger than the Apollo CM (5.5 meters, or 16.5 feet, in diameter), with 2.5 times the internal volume, weighing about 50,000 pounds. The craft will carry 6 astronauts for Earth-orbit missions, and 4 for lunar missions.
The thermal protection system for the Orion as it reenters the Earth's atmosphere will be an ablative heat shield, similar to that used by Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft. Boeing is the prime contractor for the heat shield.
Orion will descend by parachute to a dry land recovery site (with ocean splashdown as a backup); the landing will be softened by a rocket and airbags.
The Orion Service Module will differ from the Apollo SM by using solar panels, rather than fuel cells, for electric power. The Orion SM was to use liquid methane as fuel, with liquid oxygen as oxidizer. The decsion to use liquid methane fuel for the first time, requiring new engine development work, was made because methane might be manufactured from the Martian atmosphere on future Mars landing missions, and because the methane/LOX combination provides higher specific impulse (thrust per pound of propellants) than the hypergolic hydrazine/nitrogen tetroxide combination used on the Space Shuttle OMS engines and the Apollo SM.
However, in 2006 NASA decided to abandon the liquide methane fuel plan in order to reduce Orion's development time. Thus the Orion SM and the LSAM lunar lander ascent stage will use the same reliable hypergolic hydrazine/nitrogen tetroxide fuel and oxidizer as Apollo and the Space Shuttle.
There are to be four versions of the Orion CEV:
Block 1A: for transferring crew and cargo to and from the International Space Station.
Block 1B: a pressurized but unmanned version for transferring cargo to and from the ISS.
Block 2: for lunar landing missions, in conjunction with a Lunar Surface Access Module.
Block 3: Earth reentry vehicle for Mars landing missions, in conjunction with an as yet unspecified Mars Transit Vehicle.
A unmanned, unpressurized Cargo Delivery Vehicle (CDV) is also to be developed to transport unpressurized cargo to the ISS, using the same Service Module propulsion and avionics system as the Orion CEV.
Each Orion Command Module is to be reusable up to 10 times. Orion development is managed by the Johnson Space Center. Orion CEV Fact Sheet 1.5MB .pdf
At the end of August, 2006, NASA awarded the prime contract for the development and construction of the Orion spacecraft to Lockheed Martin, who won the contract over the team of Boeing & NorthopGrumman.
Design, Development Technology & Engineering (DDT&E) work is estimated to occur from Sept. 8, 2006, through Sept. 7, 2013, with an estimated cost of $3.9 billion.
Post-development spacecraft delivery orders may begin as early as Sept. 8, 2009, and extend through Sept. 7, 2019, if all options are exercised.
The cost of spacecraft orders is estimated not to exceed $3.5 billion, plus up to $750 million for sustaining engineering work.
Orion CEV procurement documents
The program to replace the current Space Shuttle system with new launch vehicles, another part of what was formerly called Project Constellation, was slowed and retitled by the Obama Administration, not wanting to implement a system identified with their predecessors. Now a very similar program is proceeding, called the Space Launch System, utilizing a Space Shuttle-derived inline heavy lift launch vehicle (HLV), a concept which is about 30 years old.
The Space Launch System (SLS), in addition to the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, is to "carry cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth orbit and beyond." The SLS will also serve as backup transportation to the International Space Station.
Early versions of the SLS are expected to carry up to 70 metric tons (over 154,000 pounds, 77 tons) to low Earth orbit (LEO). Later versions may carry up to 130 metric tons (286,000 pounds, 143 tons) to LEO. The SLS completed a combined System Requirements Review and System Definition Review on July 24, 2012. NASA story
The two-stage SLS will use four RS-25D/E engines (Space Shuttle Main Engine, SSME) from the Space Shuttle Program for the first stage. For the 70MT version, an "Interim Cryogenic Upper Stage" is being developed based on Boeing’s Delta Cryogenic Second Stage used on the Delta IV family of launch vehicles. This stage is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney RL-10B2 engine. The 130MT "Evolved" SLS will use two J-2X engines (an advanced version of the J-2 engine used in the Saturn V upper stages) for the second stage.
The RS-25D/E, RL-10B2, and the J-2X all use liquid hydrogen (LH2) as fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) as oxidizer. The first stage propellant tank design will be derived from the Space Shuttle External Tank (ET).
SLS will use strap-on solid rocket boosters (identical to the previously planned Ares V SRBs) for the initial development flights, "while follow-on boosters will be competed based on performance requirements and affordability considerations."
The first SLS test flight is now targeted for the end of 2017. SLS Acquisition Overview 2011-09-22
NASA says: "This architecture provides a modular launch vehicle that can be configured for specific mission needs using a variation of common elements. NASA may not need to lift 130 metric tons for each mission and the flexibility of this modular architecture allows the agency to use different core stage, upper stage, and first-stage booster combinations to achieve the most efficient launch vehicle for the desired mission."
SLS Fun Facts (PDF)
Space Launch System & Orion MPCV Preliminary Report .pdf
Human Space Exploration Framework (HEFT) Summary
SLS, MPCV & 21CGS Independent Cost Assessment .pdf
Life Cycle Cost Analysis of Shuttle-Derived LVs, Volume 1 1982 .pdf
Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicles' Capablities: An Overview 2005 .pdf
The Altair Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM), a companion lunar lander craft (generally similar to the Apollo Lunar Module), and the Block 2 Orion was to provide transportation for a new lunar landing program with a total price of $104 billion. Now a Near-Earth Asteroid mission is more likely than a lunar landing, and vehicle "stack" configurations are still being considered.
The LSAM was to be fueled by liquid methane and LOX. If methane (requiring new development) was abandoned, the descent stage of the Altair would probably have used 4 Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engines, which burn liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). The ascent stage of the Altair would have likely had a single engine, possibly a version of the Orion's hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide engine, or possibly a single RL-10 engine (although this presents problems in keeping the LH2 liquid over long periods of time).
All 4 astronauts were to descend to the lunar surface while the Orion spacecraft orbited unattended, and eventually stay on the moon for as long as six months. Development of the Altair LSAM lunar lander was to be split between Marshall Space Flight Center and Goddard Space Flight Center.
Altair Conceptual Design Contract Docs,
including Altair CDC Draft Request for Proposals, Dec 16, 2008
LSAM Design Proposals Presentation
Feb. 20, 2007 by project manager John F. Connolly, 6.95MB .pdf
See also: QuickShop: Science Gifts, Project Apollo, Space Shuttle,
Space Station, NASA, Space, STS-107 Columbia, Mars
Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle NewsTweets about "Orion NASA -RT -nebula "
Constellation Space Suit SystemSpace Shuttle EVA spacesuits are too heavy and stiff for use on the moon's surface (at 1/6 earth's gravity). On June 13, 2008, NASA announced that it had awarded a contract to develop new space suits for use by Orion astronauts to Houston, Texas-based Oceaneering International, Inc.
The contract's intitial term, from June 2008 to September 2014, has a value of $183.8 million. During this time Oceaneering and subcontractors will develop and manufacture prototypes of a new space suit for launch, reentry, abort, and EVA (spacewalk) use. They will also begin development of a related new suit for lunar surface EVAs, which will share some modular components with the spacewalk suit.
Two options will likely be executed to extend the contract. Option 1, which would complete lunar EVA suit development and begin production, runs from October 2010 through September 2018 with a total value of $302.1 million. Option 2, which calls for Orion suit production, processing and sustaining engineering from October 2014 through September 2018, is worth up to $260 million. CSSS Contract Award Briefing 2.1MB .pdf
Space Shuttle Retirement and International Space Station AccessThe Space Shuttles were retired in 2011. On September 21, 2005, Congress passed a bill allowing NASA to purchase Russian Soyuz spacecraft until 2012 to keep the International Space Station operating, and NASA has agreed to pay Russia's Federal Space Agency $719 million to carry 15 crew members to and from the ISS between 2009 and 2011.
US Commercial Crew VehicleNASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office is currently funding the development of several competing commercial spacecraft which would be used to deliver crews and supplies to and from the International Space Station. NASA's own spacecraft, the Orion MPCV, is intended for use on missions to asteroids, the Moon, and possibly Mars, although it might be used on trips to the ISS if necessary.
The Boeing CST-100 (being developed in conjuction with Bigelow Aerospace) is a capsule-type spacecraft which would utilize an Atlas V launch vehicle. The CST-100 is expected to be operational by 2015.
Sierra Nevada Space Systems is developing a runway-landing spacecraft called the Dream Chaser, a lifting body based on the NASA HL-20 design. The Dream Chaser would also utilize an Atlas V launch vehicle, and is also expected to be ready by 2015.
Blue Origin, funded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is developing a Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) vertical take off and landing type vehicle (and crew capsule) called the New Shephard, which is similar to the McDonnell DC-X Delta Clipper. However, the vehicle currently under development is strictly suborbital, and thus of limited utility. The New Shephard is expected to be operational between 2016 and 2018.
ISS Commercial Resupply Services (CRS, aka COTS)In August, 2006, NASA awarded ISS Commercial Resupply Services (CRS, formerly COTS) development contracts to two companies: $278 million to SpaceX and $207 million to Rocketplane Kistler
In February, 2008, when Rocketplane Kistler failed to secure enough financing to meet contract obligations, the remainder of their part of the CRS contract was transferred to Orbital Sciences, a company which already has proven its capabilities with dozens of payloads launched to orbit.
The CRS program, the cost of which is about the same as a single Space Shuttle flight, calls for the companies to demonstrate their capability to service the International Space Station (ISS) in place of the retired Space Shuttles.
In December, 2008, NASA awarded CRS operational contracts to both companies. Between 2011 and 2016, SpaceX is to provide NASA with 12 ISS resupply flights for $1.6 billion, and Orbital is to provide eight cargo flights for $1.9 billion.
Orbital Sciences has conducted over 50 space launch missions since 1990, using solid fueled vehicles.
For NASA's CRS program, Orbital intends to develop the medium-lift Taurus II solid-fueled launch vehicle, and a cargo spacecraft called Cygnus, using interchangeable modules for pressurized and unpressurized cargo. The Taurus II/Cygnus combo, launched from Wallops Island, VA, is to deliver up to 2,300 kg of cargo to the ISS, and return 1,200 kg of cargo to Earth. Taurus II/Cygnus artists renderings
Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies, aka SpaceX, founded in 2002 by PayPal cofounder Elon Musk, had 600 employees as of December, 2008. SpaceX is developing their Dragon spacecraft in both manned and unmanned versions to recrew and resupply the International Space Station.
SpaceX has developed two launch vehicles, the Falcon 1 and the Falcon 9, both of which use LOX/kerosene burning engines. The Falcon 9 is slated to lift the Dragon spacecraft on flights to the ISS from Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral.
During the first test flight of the Falcon 1, in March, 2006, a fuel leak due to a corroded aluminum nut lead to failure of the 1st stage engine and loss of the vehicle. The second test flight, in March, 2007, fared better, the first stage had no problems, but during stage separation bumped into the 2nd stage, leading to motion exceeding design parameters and the premature shutdown of the 2nd stage 7 min 30 sec. into the flight.
Space Search: The DMOZ Open Directory searches for keywords in website titles and descriptions (not page content). You can limit your search to the Space links category, or search all science links.
NASA Subdomains Search & Links page links to dozens of the numerous NASA subdomains, and includes two search engines, NASA advanced search and a customized version of Google, both of which you can use to search the NASA subdomains independently by copying the subdomain name (using ctrl-c) and pasting it (using ctrl-v) into the appropriate place on the forms (which are at the bottom of the page).
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In February, 2010, the Obama Administration announced that the President had cancelled the Constellation project, including the Orion spacecraft and the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles. The President's budget now calls for additional funds for a "bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration," without really saying what that approach will be. Private industry is to be called upon to provide launch vehicles and spacecraft which service the International Space Station, and might eventually travel to near Earth objects and possibly Mars. But there is no timetable for industry to provide these vehicles.
SpaceRef: Paradigm Shifts - NASA Admin on Cancellation - JSC Dir Concerned - NASA Watch - Save Constellation|
On April 13, 2010, the Administration declared that one Orion spacecraft will be built. In a move hoped to placate critics of the Constellation cancellation, the Administration has decided to construct a single Orion "lite" spacecraft, which will be launched unmanned to the Int'l Space Station, and parked as a "lifeboat" to return astronauts to earth only in an emergency. President Obama intends to select a design for a new heavy lift launch vehicle (in place of the Ares V ) by 2015.
On September 29, 2010, the US House and Senate agreed on a 3-year NASA authorization bill which includes 1.1 billion dollars to continue developing the Orion as an ISS "lifeboat," adds one more Shuttle flight for June, 2011, or later, and provides $1.6 billon to develop a heavy-lift "Space Launch System." Scientific American story
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