Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, United States of America
Orion is a crew exploration vehicle (CEV) designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin for NASA to transport crew or cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon and Mars.
The vehicle is derived from its predecessor Apollo Command Module to replace the Orbital Space Plane (OSP). Orion will be launched on a shuttle derived heavy lift vehicle from Launch Complex 39 of Kennedy Space Centre in 2014.
Development of the Orion CEV began as part of the Constellation Program launched by NASA. The vehicle was initially intended to be carried on the piggyback of the Ares I rocket launcher.
The program was, however, cancelled by the US Government in February 2010 resulting in the restructuring of the launch vehicle. NASA is now planning to launch Orion on the piggyback of a shuttle derived heavy lift vehicle.
The Orion spacecraft has been designed to serve for 210 days. The preliminary design review (PDR) was completed in September 2009.
The four major components of the spacecraft are the launch abort system (LAS), the crew module (CM), the service module (SM) and the spacecraft adapter.
The LAS is an emergency escape system which separates the CM from the launch vehicle using a solid rocket powered launch abort motor (AM). It is equipped with an attitude control motor (ACM) and a jettison motor (JM).
NASA has unveiled a decision to deploy a Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) as a replacement for the LAS. The MLAS is equipped with four solid rocket motors integrated 900 from each other for separating the crew module from the launch vehicle during emergency evacuations.
The CM accommodates four to six crew members. It is made up of aluminium and lithium alloy and enclosed with a silicon fibre Avcoat ablator heat shield. The structural framework of the CM was completed in June 2010.
The SM is equipped with propulsion systems, batteries, reaction control systems and waste heat management systems. It is cylindrical in shape and constructed with aluminium and lithium alloys.
NASA proposed a project to develop Orion CEV in July 2005. Boeing and Lockheed Martin were considered for the development contract. The agency however selected Lockheed Martin and awarded a $3.9bn contract in August 2006 to design, manufacture, test and deliver the spacecraft.
The CEV will be built into two versions namely Lunar Orion and Mars Orion. Lunar Orion will carry four astronauts to the Moon, while Mars Orion destined for Mars will accommodate a crew of six astronauts.
An airbag landing system was removed from the Orion in August 2007 to reduce the overall weight of the spacecraft. The solar array design testing was successfully completed in October 2008. The maiden launch abort test was conducted by ATK in November 2008.
The environmental testing is being conducted by NASA between 2007 and 2011 at the Glenn Research Center Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. Abort flight tests are also being conducted by NASA between 2008 and 2011 at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. The Post Landing Orion Recovery Test (PORT) commenced in March 2009 using an 8,164kg boilerplate built by the US Navy.
In February 2011, the first Orion was shipped from Michoud Assembly facility to Lockheed Martin's Denver facilities to test the spacecraft under various harsh environments. The maiden unmanned flight of the spacecraft into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is planned for 2014. The first manned flight is scheduled for 2015. Orion is expected to land on the Moon and the Mars in 2020 and 2030 respectively.
The Orion spacecraft features a glass cockpit, roll, pitch, and yaw thrusters, an autodock system and an automated transfer vehicle. It is equipped with TTEthernet built by TTTech Computertechnik for real time communications.
The electrical system comprises two gallium arsenide solar array panels and lithium batteries.
The sub contractors involved in the Orion project include Aerojet, Hamilton Sundstrand, Honeywell, United State Alliance and Orbital Science Corporation.
Aerojet is supplying the propulsion systems, reaction control system and jettison motor. The command and data handling system, displays, flight control systems, avionics and navigation systems are being supplied by Honeywell. United State Alliance will be responsible for the assembly, integration and processing of the Orion capsule at the Kennedy Space Center.
Orbital Science is the prime contractor involved in the manufacturing of Launch Abort System. ATK received a $62.5m sub-contract from Orbital Science in July 2007 to design, build, examine and supply the launch abort motor.
Hamilton Sundstrand provided fire detection and suppression system, carbon monoxide removal or humidity control system, pressure control system, atmospheric monitoring system, cabin air ventilation and potable or cooling water storage as part of a $700m contract signed in August 2006.