NASA's Orion Marks Progress With Design Review


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On Oct. 21, NASA held a review to evaluate the design readiness of the Orion spacecraft, the latest in a series of key milestones on the journey to Mars. The results of this review, known as a Critical Design Review, at the Program level will be briefed to agency leaders in the coming months.

The Orion spacecraft is being developed to send astronauts to deep space destinations, such as an asteroid and on the journey to Mars launching on the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

“The Orion team across the country put in many long hours preparing for and participating in this review,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager. “Every aspect of the spacecraft design was closely scrutinized.” 

The Critical Design Review was carried out over the past 10 weeks by engineers at NASA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Clearing the Critical Design Review means that the Orion design is mature and ready to move ahead with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and testing. The review was supported by engineers working with the SLS and Ground Systems Development and Operations programs and in the Exploration Systems Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, alongside an independent Standing Review Board. 

The evaluation included a review of common aspects of the spacecraft for Exploration Mission (EM)-1 and the spacecraft for EM-2, the first Orion mission with astronauts, such as the spacecraft’s structures, pyrotechnics, launch abort system, guidance, navigation and control and software, among many other elements. Systems unique to EM-2 will be addressed at a later critical design review for the mission in the fall of 2017.

“This is an exciting time for Orion,” Kirasich continued. “We are making strong progress manufacturing the Exploration Mission-1 Orion vehicle. Our dedicated team is making human space exploration a reality.”

Across the country, elements of the Orion spacecraft are coming together for the first integrated mission with SLS and the ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center. At NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, welding began in September on the next Orion destined for space. Next month, NASA will see the arrival of a test version of Orion’s service module, provided by ESA, for testing and analysis at the agency’s Plum Brook Station, near Sandusky, Ohio.

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