Orion / EM-1
Orion / EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1)
Orion EM-1, previously known as SLS-1 (Space Launch System-1) is NASA's first planned flight of the Space Launch System and the second uncrewed test flight of the Orion MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle). NASA, ESA, European and US Industry have teamed to develop the ORION spacecraft.
Under an agreement between NASA and ESA, ratified in December 2012, NASA's new Orion vehicle for human space exploration missions includes the ESM (European Service Module), based upon the design and experience of ESA's ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle), the supply craft for the ISS (International Space Station).
ESA's industrial prime contractor for ATV, Airbus Defence and Space of Bremen, Germany, is leading a European industrial consortium, developing this vehicle on behalf of ESA and working closely with NASA's Orion US industrial prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
Orion is the spacecraft that NASA intends to use to send humans and cargo into space beyond low earth orbit and to return them safely to Earth. It is being developed for crewed missions to cislunar space, asteroids, and then to Mars. The capsule is also planned as a backup vehicle for missions to the ISS (International Space Station). It will be launched by the NASA-developed SLS (Space Launch System) in 2019. 1) 2)
The first test flight of Orion was successfully completed in December 2014 with a Delta IV launch vehicle that launched the Orion Crew Module into a high elliptical orbit to demonstrate high-speed atmospheric Earth re-entry. This flight test did not include the ESM.
It is planned such that the Orion EM-1 flies a mission profile similar to what might be used in a future asteroid redirect mission. The un-crewed Orion travels to a lunar DRO (Distant Retrograde Orbit) mission (Figure 2), then returns on a trajectory calculated to achieve a high speed atmospheric entry on the order of ~11 km/s to demonstrate the performance and effectiveness of the Orion TPS (Thermal Protection System), as well as relevant environments prior to the first manned launch of the system. The total mission duration is 25 days (6 at destination). This will be the first flight of the ESM.
Orion EM-2 is planned as a Crewed High Lunar Orbit mission no later than the end of 2021. It is planned to spend several days in lunar orbit before performing a TEI (Trans-Earth Injection) burn to begin the return to Earth. The total mission duration is expected to be 14 days maximum (4 at destination).
Table 2: Overview of Orion ESM Design Reference Missions
Figure 1: Artist's rendition of the Orion EM-1 spacecraft in lunar orbit (image credit: NASA, ESA)
Figure 2: Orion EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1) design reference (image credit: NASA)
The Orion Vehicle
• CM (Crew Module)
• ESM (European Service Module)
• CMA (Crew Module Adapter)
• SA (Spacecraft Adapter)
• SAJ (Spacecraft Adapter Jettisoned Fairings)
• LAS (Launch Abort System)
The Service Module (SM) refers to the combined CMA + ESM + SA + SAJ.
The Crew Module and ESM (European Service Module), also referred to as SM, are physically interfacing via an interface ring called the CMA (Crew Module Adapter). The ESM is attached to the CMA for the duration of the mission. Just prior to the Earth's orbit entry, the CMA separates from the CM for CMA/ESM disposal and the CM performs final reentry and landing operations.
NASA is responsible for development of the CM, CMA, SA, SAJ, and LAS elements of the Orion spacecraft. The CMA provides the structural, mechanical, electrical, and fluid interface between the CM and ESM. In addition, the CMA houses communication equipment, sublimators for thermal heat rejection, and power and data control/interface electronics. The SM is enclosed by three spacecraft adapter fairing panels (SAJ) which provide a partial load path from the CMA to SA but also protect the solar arrays, radiators, and thrusters from launch and ascent loads. The fairings will be jettisoned during the ascent phase or following main engine cut-off of the launch vehicle.
The SA (Spacecraft Adapter) provides the interface to the launch vehicle during launch. During launch and ascent, the ESM and SA will be enclosed by the SAJ. The SA attaches to the aft end of the ESM to the Launch Vehicle and includes the structural interface, separation mechanisms, and umbilical connectors for communication between the launch vehicle and the Orion Spacecraft. At launch vehicle burnout, the Orion Spacecraft separates from the SA at the ESM/SA separation plane.
Figure 3: Overview of the Orion spacecraft architecture (image credit: NASA, ESA)
Figure 4: Orion schematic layout (image credit: NASA)
Orion EM-1 CM (Crew Module)
The milestones for the Orion EM-1 mirror the path taken by the Orion EFT-1 (Exploration Flight Test-1) spacecraft. However, the Orion EM-1 will sport a number of improvements based on the experiences of the December 2014 test flight. NASA is beefing up the critical TPS (Thermal Protection System) that will protect astronauts from the searing heats experienced during reentry as the human rated vehicle plunges through the Earth's atmosphere after returning from ambitious expeditions to the Moon and beyond.
Based in part on lessons learned from EFT-1, engineers are refining Orion's heat shield to enhance the design, ease manufacturing procedures and significantly strengthen is heat resistant capabilities for the far more challenging space environments and missions that lie ahead later this decade and planned further out in the future as part of NASA's agency-wide ‘Journey to Mars' initiative to send humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s.
On all future flights starting with EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1), the Orion crew module must withstand the higher temperatures and speeds experienced during return from more distant destinations such as the Moon, near-Earth Asteroids and Mars. Orion's TPS is comprised of the 5 m diameter main heat shield covering the rounded base of the capsule as well as the grid of back shell tiles bonded around the vehicle from top to bottom. 6)
Starting with EM-1, engineers will bond Orion's thermal protection system back shell tiles with a silver, metallic-based thermal control coating. The coating is designed to keep Orion's back shell in a temperature range from approximately -65 to 290ºC prior to entry and afford protection against electrical surface charges in space and during reentry.
The pressure vessel is the primary structure of Orion's crew module and is made of seven large aluminum pieces that must be welded together in detailed fashion. The first weld connected the tunnel to the forward bulkhead, which is at the top of the spacecraft and houses many of Orion's critical systems, such as the parachutes that deploy during reentry. Orion's tunnel, with a docking hatch, will allow crews to move between the crew module and other spacecraft. 7)
Orion's pressure vessel is composed of seven large pieces of aluminum, three of which are the cone panels. The pressure vessel holds the atmosphere astronauts will breathe against the vacuum of deep space, forming the crew compartment. The three panels together form the angled mid-section around the crew module where the windows and hatch are located. While technicians have been joining other elements of the structure together since early September, the cone panels have presented a unique challenge for NASA and Lockheed Martin, the agency's prime contractor for Orion. Engineers who have sought to reduce the crew module's overall weight have encountered and overcome technical challenges. 8)
The lessons learned from the EFT-1 mission are being applied to the EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1) and EM-2 flight test configurations to optimize a system design that can smoothly transition into production.
Ten of the most important lessons from EFT-1 focused on the ability to evaluate the design with actual flight performance. This was critical for the remaining design process as NASA continues to develop the most advanced Human rated spacecraft ever built. The following are the top ten lessons learned from this test flight: 9)
1) Some deep space designs are classic for a reason: Every aspect of Orion's design is driven by crew safety. Over 50 years of NASA's investment learning the ins and outs of human spaceflight has provided direction for meeting deep space requirements. An example is LAS (Launch Abort System). About 6 minutes into launch, the LAS is jettisoned to save mass for the journey to deep space destinations. While other system configurations exist, design trade studies repeatedly highlighted the advantage of not carrying extra weight past the time it is needed. So because the Orion LAS supports missions to deep space, mass is king and any extra weight is an extreme hindrance to those missions. By shedding the Orion LAS early, this mass isn't a burden to the vehicle for the entire mission, and other Orion systems are able to provide the abort function for the remainder of ascent to orbit.
2) Crew safety is built in, not bolted on: The EFT-1 tested and verified systems that are built "into the bones" of the spacecraft from the very beginning. This means not just the heat shield or the flight computers are designed for the rigors of deep space, but everything included in the fundamental systems and structure of the spacecraft are designed and built to specifications set forth by NASA. Every system design has a deep space requirement it is being built to right now: Orion's seats are being designed to help prevent loss of consciousness as astronauts experience up to 5 G's during high-velocity re-entries, the cooling system keeps the crew cabin about 25ºC despite its heat shield being heated to 2,200ºC during reentry, the built in stowage lockers are designed to double as a safe-haven during dangerous solar activity, the life support system allows for exercise since deep space missions require much longer stays in zero gravity, computers and avionics are designed to self-correct in case there is a failure and you're months from home, and the crew module tiles are designed to protect from multiple micro-meteoroid strikes since the number of strikes will increase during missions that last months instead of days.
3) Reusability must be tied to reality: Part of flying for the first time in space is being able to make informed decisions about what we can realistically reuse following a deep space mission. After evaluating areas of water intrusion and corrosion, we've come to expect that many components in the crew module, especially inside the pressurized volume, or the hull where the crew sits, can be reused for later flights—components such as the computers, avionics and electrical distribution for example. The structure itself is more difficult to predict for reuse base on the unpredictable landing loads it might experience from a long journey from deep space with unpredictable landing sea conditions. The program is looking at options for reuse based on actual landing load data provided.
4) Designs mature as we Learn: Significant design changes are being made to optimize the EM vehicles. Thefuture design and analysis efforts will be simplified (Figure 5), overall mass has gone down, and recurring costs for production will be lowered. Establishing a common design philosophy has prevented a large number of engineering revisions and hardware changes. The Orion design is now incorporating lessons from EFT-1 and updated requirements for the crewed EM-2 mission.
Figure 5: Some highlights of the numerous design changes made as a result of the EFT-1 flight (image credit: NASA, Lockheed Martin)
5) Test like you fly to ensure success: After extensive testing on the ground in "Flight Like" scenarios EFT-1 successfully tested Orion in real flight environments, which could not be duplicated in ground simulations. The systems were subjected to the most critical crew safety requirement with the same rigors they will see when carrying humans. Systems verified included: thermal protection system, hardware separation events and the parachute system. This was a 100% mission success. 87 EFT-1 flight test objectives were identified in the early phases of the test development program. These objectives included verification of Orion's subsystems ability to launch, control its trajectory with OFI (Operational Flight Instrumentation), complete all separation events, reenter the Earth's atmosphere at 32, 200 km/hr and 2200ºC, land accurately in the Pacific Ocean and be recovered without damage. 81 of the 87 FTOs (Flight Test Objectives) were fully satisfied with six being partially met. Four of the seven FTO's were related to suspect DFI (Developmental Flight Instrumentation) performance. Two FTO's related to the Crew Module Up-righting System were partially met, and one FTO related to structural measurements was partially met.
6) Organize for focus: Organizationally, Lockheed Martin and NASA agreed assigning a "mission director" to each test flight would allow program focus on the near term test milestones while maintaining a parallel program focus on the remaining DDT&E (Design, Development, Test, and Evaluation) efforts. EFT-1 was the first mission where this was implemented and proved to ensure the test was completed on time and within budget. This effort also saved over one year of development time for EM-1 by performing this in parallel versus chronologically.
7) Processes and reviews tailored: Since its inception the Orion program has spent significant time focusing on defining an efficient set of requirements to enable the design of Orion as well as optimize the concept of operations for a recurring program rhythm. In an effort to remain flexible the program continues to evolve the requirements based on lessons learned. On EFT-1 the program used a consolidated requirements document approach that was successful in limiting the number of requirements, individual requirements documents, and tiers of requirements documents. The team is using the success of this approach to streamline the EM requirements where possible. Requirements verifications were completed later than planned, partly because the verification work did not carry the same urgency as other launch campaign tasks. The team is looking at a more structured "waterfall" approach to prevent lower level verifications from conflicting with launch campaign activities.
8) Flexibility to accommodate change: Several program planning improvements were accomplished during the course of the program leading up to EFT-1. Improving the Orion IMS ( Integrated Master Schedule) by integrating the NASA "non-Prime" elements improved the continuity of the entire schedule past vehicle delivery. Through Monthly Orion Program Performance Review meetings, the assessments team continued to monitor the contractor performance. Data input for these reviews consisted of Integrated Master Schedule updates, CPRs (Cost Performance Reports), Financial Management Reports (533 inputs), contractor supplemental financial and schedule data, and through participation in the subsystem IPT (Integrated Product Team) meetings. The assessments team integrated these data each month to update the assessment and forecast for the EFT-1 launch date and financial position enabling program management to make rapid decisions.
9) Partnerships ensure Communication: After the President's proposed cancellation of the Constellation program, NASA and Lockheed Martin recognized reductions needed to occur both on the government side and within Industry to keep the program intact. NASA identified all work within their scope as "Non-Prime" and all work within Industry as "Prime". NASA and Industry were challenged with a $738.9 M reduction in funding in 2010 and needed to re-plan the entire program in anticipation of this reduction. The cost reduction initiatives they initiated have come to be known as "The streamlining of Orion" and have been used as examples of how NASA and Industry can work together to become more efficient and affordable. The continued emphasis on meeting program objectives within the government's affordability range have resulted in a refined program plan that accomplishes all of its goals within the annual budget and without jeopardizing mission success. One example of this was the reduction of test flights from seven to four while maintaining the same requirements verifications.
10) Supply Chain must remain healthy: EFT-1 provided the Orion team the ability to exercise 80% of the supply chain that will be utilized for future production vehicles. This includes subcontractors currently spread across 42 states with 60,000 parts being received by NASA or its prime subcontractor in 3 major integration facilities. Throughout this endeavor the processes were validated, enhancements were made and opportunities for improvement identified. EFT-1 helped establish 6 key principles needed to ensure effective supply chain management:
• Centralized supply chain ownership/management offers advantages over IPT ownership
• Need for timely actionable information, including stable engineering design documentation, is mandatory
• Consistent, effective and constant communication is mandatory
• Management of the supplier certification and work load
• Manage with the tools, don't expect the tools to manage
• Work within the system.
In summary, NASA and Lockheed Martin are taking what we have learned from EFT-1 and years of government investments to make improvements, fly again, making improvements again, and developing a spacecraft that we can proudly stand behind and say we are confident in its abilities to take humans into deep space and bring them safely home.
Some examples of Orion design changes as a result of lessons learned from EFT-1 deals with the structure of the EM.
The Orion design for future Exploration Missions experienced many design optimizations as a result of the EFT-1 flight results. The following section highlights several changes to exemplify optimizations that was realized. Note: (For more information, the reader is referred to Ref. 9).
Structures: Reduced parts and weld assemblies required on the pressure vessel include:
- Reduction from 6 to 3 cone panels, and reduction of cone section welds from 12 to 3.
- Reduction from a 3 piece welded aft bulkhead design to a single spun-formed design.
- Change to an "Apollo-gusset" design in the aft-bay to help reduce the number of separable-parts, and combine structural elements (reduced thruster pod support structures and harness support structures, etc.).
Figure 6: A simplification and reduction of structural parts has been realized by the lessons from EFT-1 (image credit: NASA, Lockheed Martin)
Propulsion: Tubing subassemblies on EFT-1 were custom fit for propulsion system integration (e.g. fit-up tube assembly, cut, face, install heaters / temp sensors, reinstall, repeat as required). On EM-1 no trim to fit will be required on the vehicle. Tubing subassemblies will be delivered in their net shape and subassembly welds will be proof & leak tested prior to delivery.
PCAs (Pressure Control Assemblies) on EFT-1 required a custom fit for propulsion system integration (similar to Tubing subassemblies). On EM-1 there will be improved packaging and attachment methods including PCA welds proof & leak checked prior to delivery.
Propellant and Pressurant Tanks on EFT-1 were difficult to integrate and perform welding operations. The EM-1 design created a new inlet / outlet orientation to ease integration and welding operations.
RCS (Reaction Control System) thrusters on EFT-1 had support struts that have been simplified to a Pod design and attachment method eliminating all struts.
Figure 7: Left: EFT-1 Roll Left Thruster, Right: EM-1 Roll Left Thruster Pods (image credit: NASA, Lockheed Martin)
TPS (Thermal Protection Systems): The Heatshield Avcoat design improvement included changing from a monolithic, individual cell injection process to a "Block Avcoat" design where the heat shield blocks could be automated in production while increasing material properties performance. The use of thermal tape that was used on the EFT-1 heatshield (and similar to Apollo) was changed to use on all backshell and heatshield surfaces for all future Exploration Missions.
Micrometeoroid and Orbital Debris Performance: There are a number of lessons learned in the realm of MMOD (Micrometeoroid and Orbital Debris) environments and analyses, which are being examined and used to influence change for the EM and beyond missions. Chief among these lessons learned is that time spent in the high orbital debris flux altitude band, approximately 650 km to 1200 km, should be minimized. The MMOD analysis performed on EFT-1 was the first such analysis of a human-rated spacecraft above ISS ( International Space Station) altitudes since man-made orbital debris has become an issue, and found the risk at these altitudes (600 km – 1600 km) to be much higher than anticipated; Apollo was too early in spaceflight history for much OD (Orbital Debris) to have accumulated yet. Post-flight inspection of the EFT-1 capsule indicated that actual MMOD exposure may have been even higher than the analyses had assessed. Based on this lesson learned, the parking orbit of EM-1 has been reduced from 3.5 hours in a high-MMOD-risk orbit (2 orbits), to half that time (limited to 1 orbit) to reduce MMOD risk. And as EM-2 trajectory trades and analysis is ongoing, avoiding these altitudes has been accepted as a prerequisite in the EM-2 trajectories. Largely anchored on this finding, other lesson learned recommendations include: increasing MMOD protection in upper-stage and other critical hardware, re-assessing window damage cause and remediation, and continued post-flight inspections and MMOD environment recommended updates based on EM flights.
Radiation Summary: Orion is the first spacecraft that addresses crew radiation protection as an integral part of the vehicle design. We are using a state-of-the-art radiation analysis process to analyze the shielding provided by the vehicle and quantify the internal radiation environment. This analysis is based on the full fidelity Orion CAD model and space radiation environment models. Due to the EFT-1 trajectory passing through the very core of the van Allen proton belts, intravehicular radiation environment was equivalent to 4-6 weeks inside ISS (in terms of cumulative exposure). Thus EFT-1 presented a valuable opportunity to validate our analysis procedure and ultimately improve crew radiation protection for future manned missions. This opportunity was materialized by flying six RAMs (Radiation Area Monitors) on EFT-1. Radiation measurements were in very good agreement with pre-flight predictions, confirming the validity of the radiation analysis approach and providing confidence in our efforts to maintain crew radiation exposure ALARA (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) consistent with NASA requirements.
An important lesson learned for electronic components radiation hardening refers to the importance of considering time variability of the environments in the Single Event Effect rate calculations. The EFT-1 proton environment varied dramatically throughout the mission. Accounting for this time variation was an essential component in selecting the appropriate level of redundancy in critical systems such as the VMC/FCMs (Vehicle Management Computer / Flight Control Modules). This lesson continues to apply to Exploration Missions. Stochastically occurringSPEs ( Solar Particle Events) may cause significant temporary increase in the radiation environment, and critical systems need to design appropriately. A related lesson learned reflects the importance of assessing timing of critical mission events with respect to the radiation environment. Environment assessments performed for EFT-1 drove modification of the mission timeline such that Avionics intensive mission events be executed outside of the core of the van Allen belts. This too is a lesson learned relevant for future missions especially in off-nominal conditions that may expose the spacecraft to high radiation environments.
EM-2 (Exploration Mission-2): EM-2 will be a crewed test flight that will be launched on an SLS and enter lunar orbit in 2022 to verify the capability of Orion to successfully launch, perform a crewed mission, and return them safely to Earth. Figure 2 depicts one option for a lunar mission. The EM-2 configuration will consist of:
• A fully functional launch abort system
• A fully functional Crew Module that includes a crew of up to four and all Cis-Lunar life support systems
• A fully functional Service Module.
Figure 8: EM-2 Design Reference Mission (image credit: NASA)
Figure 9: Technicians with Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion, are welding together the pieces of the spacecraft's pressure vessel at Michoud Assembly Center in New Orleans, LA (image credit: NASA)
ESM (European Service Module)
The ESM implements four major system functions to Orion (Ref. 1):
• provides thrust for orbital maneuvers and attitude control after upper stage/launch vehicle separation
• generates electrical power and distributes it to the ESM users and to the CM/CMA
• regulates heat for the life support and avionics equipment during the orbital phases of the mission
• stores and provides to the CMA/CM potable water, oxygen, and nitrogen.
In addition, it ensures structural spacecraft integrity during launch and in-orbit maneuvers. The ESM can also provide additional volume and other resources on select missions for accommodating science, engineering demonstrations, development test objectives, and deployment of lunar infrastructure equipment during the cruise and lunar orbit phases of lunar missions. This volume provides electrical power distribution, network access for command and control interfaces, and structures and mechanisms.
The architecture of the module has been developed based on the ATV spacecraft concept (five successful missions to the ISS),modified to cope with the different mission requirements and the man-rating approach for beyond LEO missions. 10)
Figure 10: Illustration of an ATV cargo freighter in flight with deployed solar arrays (image credit: ESA)
The resulting ESM architecture is depicted in Figure 11, for comparison. The architecture of the system and subsystems hereafter proposed is the reference design for the Lunar Sortie Mission. Changes in the architecture are expected for the other missions to tailor the configuration to mission needs, to remove unnecessary HW and to optimize the launch mass.
European Industrial Consortium: ESA entrusted the development of the ESM (European Service Module) to a consortium of European industries led by Airbus Defence and Space. The consortium of companies was selected to reuse the experience and industrial heritage of the very successful ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle). Airbus Defence DS Germany as the Prime Contractor is responsible for all system-related work. This includes: 11)
- The overall Management of the contract
- The overall System Engineering activities
- The Management of the procurement activities
- The System Product Assurance and Safety activities
- The liaison with Lockheed-Martin (NASA prime contractor of the Orion vehicle).
Airbus DS, France is responsible for part of the system engineering, ground software, Helium pressurant tanks and simulation facility.
On Subsystem level, Airbus DS, Germany is responsible for the System Engineering, the Propulsion, Power and Avionics Subsystem Engineering as well as for GSE and AIT activities. The responsibility for the development of the other sub-systems or equipment has been distributed among European companies as follows:
TAS (Thales Alenia Space) Italy: the Structure, Thermal and Consumable Storage Subsystems, supported by the following level-2 subcontractors:
- RUAG, Switzerland: secondary structures
- SONACA, Belgium: tank bulkhead
- APCO, Switzerland: MDPS (Meteoroid and Debris Protection System)
- CRISA, Spain, TCU (Thermal Control Unit)
- Prototech, Norway: nitrogen filters
- MEWASA, Switzerland, Water tank bellows.
Dutch Space, The Netherlands: the SAW (Solar Array Wings), supported by the following level-2 subcontractors:
- SELEX SE, Italy for the Photo Voltaic Assemblies
- RUAG, Switzerland: deployment dampers.
Airbus DS, Germany: the propellant tanks, Propulsion Drive Electronic and reaction control thrusters.
RUAG, Switzerland: the SADA (Solar Array Drive Assembly) composed of the mechanism and electronic unit.
SELEX SE, Italy: the PCDU (Power Conditioning and Distribution Unit)
Thales Alenia Space, Belgium: PRU (Pressure Regulation Unit)
Antwerp Space, Belgium: the Electrical Ground Support Equipment Front Ends, supported by the following level-2 subcontractors :
- Clemessy, France
- Rovsing, Denmark.
APCO, Switzerland: Mechanical Ground Support Equipment.
Latelec, France: avionics and power harness
TESAT Germany and Alter, Spain: CPP (Centralized Parts Procurement) scheme for EEE (Electrical, Electronic and Electromechanical)-parts.
Equipment suppliers encompasses Vacco (US), Moog (US), Sofrance (F), Cobham (US), Vivace (US).
Figure 11: Illustration of the ESM (European Service Module) without radiators and MDPS, image credit: ESA, Airbus DS
Physical architecture: The ESM is a cylindrical unpressurized module which interfaces at its bottom to the SA and at its top to the CMA. The OMS-E (Orbital Maneuvering System -Engine), i.e. the main engine, protrudes into the SA. Equipment on the tank platform is also allowed to protrude into the CMA. The total height of the ESM is 4.0 m.
The cylindrical shape is defined by the external radiators which enclose the body of the ESM. The function of the radiators is twofold, i.e. to radiate heat, and to serve as the first barrier of the MDPS (Micrometeoroid and Debris Protection Subsystem ). Mounted to the back side of the radiators are Nextel and Kevlar blankets which serve as the second barrier. The externally mounted RCS (Reaction Control System) pods and SAWs (Solar Array Wings) must be designed such that these respect the Orion SAJ allowable envelope.
The internal accommodation of the ESM subsystem equipment is highly dependent to the primary structure architecture, based on seven separate bays for accommodation, six located circumferentially about the central bay. The pressurant tanks are accommodated in the center bay. The four largest bays are used for the accommodation of the propellant tanks which dominate the available volume. The remaining volume provides accommodation to the avionics equipment, CSS (Consumable Storage Subsystem) water tanks, harnessing and tubing.
The top surface of the ESM is dominated by the protruding tank domes for the propellant subsystems, one of the helium pressure tanks, the four tanks for Oxygen and Nitrogen, and the Flow Control Assembly for the active cooling subsystem. These elements protrude into the CMA, while maintaining a specific minimum distance to the CM Heat Shield. For these elements above the tank platform, the CMA provides the MDPS protection.
The lower surface is dominated by the OMS-E, which serves as the main engine of the ESM, and the eight auxiliary thrusters. Within the lower platform, a panel is incorporated through which the UPC (Unpressurized Cargo) is installed, and optionally ejected.
Table 3: ESM characteristics for Lunar Missions
Functional architecture: Orion functionalities are generally shared between ESM and CMA/CM. Functional Chains gather equipment of the ESM which participate to a same service provided by Orion for the accomplishment of its mission.
Figure 12 depicts the overall avionics subsystem architecture and interfaces. The interface to the SLS launcher is depicted on the left side of the drawing, and the CM and CMA (labeled as SM-CM I/F Adapter) are on the right side. The main link with Orion CM on-board computers is the ODN (On-board Data Network), based on a time-triggered Ethernet solution. This interface ensures the connection of all ESM avionics to the on-board computers and allows the ESM to receive commands and to deliver monitors.
Few discrete lines ensure the independent command of ESM power subsystem electronics, allow to acquire signals from 8 sun sensors used as back-up AOCS sensors and allow the transfer of data acquired from the development flight instrumentation.
The four SAWs (Solar Array Wings) ensure a maximum electrical power production of 11.2 kW, to cope with a CMA/CM power demand of maximum 7.3 kW to be respected with one wing failed.
Four power buses allow powering to / from the CMA/CM depending on mission phases. Additional and independent power lines are provided for the wireless cameras installed on top of SAWs.
Finally, a dedicated pass-through harness connects the CMA to the SA/SAJ and launcher to allow transfer of monitoring data and separation commands.
Figure 12: ESM functional architecture (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS)
The ESM provides translational and 3-axis attitude control for the spacecraft, stores consumables for the crew module and provides power via the solar arrays. The ESM is also being designed to carry cargo. The main subsystems of the ESM are: 12)
• Structure Subsystem
• TCS (Thermal Control Subsystem)
• CSS (Consumable Storage Subsystem)
• PSS (Propulsion Subsystem)
• EPS (Electrical Power Subsystem)
• Avionics Subsystem
Figure 13: Top view of the ESM and its elements (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS)
Figure 14: Illustration of the ESM architecture and principal layout of main elements (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS)
Structure subsystem: The ESM astructure consists of the following major elements:
• Primary structure
• Secondary structure
• MDPS (Meteoroid and Debris Protection).
The primary structure transmits the SLS launch loads to the upper composite composed of the CMA, the CM, and the LAS, then supports the upper composite aerodynamic and inertial loads as well as the ESM inertial loads generated by the ESM internal equipment. The design is based on a shared load path between the ESM and the external SAJ fairings. The objective is to minimize the loads applied on the ESM mechanical structure in order to optimize its mass which is propelled all along the mission, whilst the SAJ capability is sized to the extent possible by the main launch phase, since the SAJ mass is jettisoned early during the launch. The primary structure is composed of:
• 6 longerons (machined aluminum) linked to the CMA frame and six pyronuts that separate the ESM from the Spacecraft Adapter
• Tank bulkhead (machined aluminum) supporting the four propellant tanks, as well as the gas delivery CSS tanks, ensuring the main link between the CMA lower interface ring and the rest of ESM structure.
• "Radial" shear webs and internal "square" webs assembly (composite sandwich panels), housing most of the ESM equipment, including water tanks and SAW support frames and propulsion high pressure system. It forms the ESM core attached to the tank bulkhead, longerons and lower closeout panels. The main engine is attached to the central square tube panels via struts transmitting the thrust.
• Lower Platform (machined aluminum) on which the equipment is connected: OMS-E main engine, auxiliary thrusters supports, RCS pods supports, SAD (Solar Array Drive) mechanism, and PIE (Propulsion Isolation Equipment).
• MDPS covers and aft closure panels to protect the ESM from the MMOD (Micrometeoroid and Orbital Debris) environment.
The secondary structures support the ESM equipment carrying the inertial and dynamic loads of the equipment during launch and transmitting in-orbit thrust and inertial loads.
The MDPS is partly metallic and partly composed of Nextel reinforced MLI (Multi-Layered Insulation). Debris and meteoroid particles with velocities up to 24 km/s hit the outer wall, forming a cloud of lower energy particles which are then contained by the inner wall, preventing any penetration of the ESM.
Figure 15: Primary and secondary structures (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS)
TCS (Thermal Control Subsystem): The TCS includes an ATCS (Active Thermal Control Subystem), a PTCS (Passive thermal control Subsystem) and the TCU (Thermal Control Unit).
11) ATCS (Active Thermal Control Subystem): The ATCS is designed to collect the thermal loads from the CM and from the ESM powered equipment and to reject them toward the space radiative sink. The ATCS architecture is based on a Single-phase Fluid Loop Architecture using the HFE-7200 coolant to collect and to transfer the heat loads from both ESM avionics (via cold plates) and CM (via Inter-Loop Heat Exchanger) and to reject them through specific body mounted radiators. The ATCS is composed of two fully independent loops working simultaneously (hot redundancy approach). The schematic of the ATCS architecture is presented in Figure 16.
Each ATCS loop is composed by the following main components:
• 1 Radiator Assembly commonly used for both loops and composed of 4 full height radiators and 2 split radiators (with lower part not removable) mounted in serial configuration
• 1 CP (Cold Plate)
• 2 online APSBs (Absolute Pressure Sensor Blocks)
• 1 wet on-line TSB (Temperature Sensor Block)
• 1 FCA (Fluid Control Assembly) including redundant pumps with relevant passive accumulator and a TWMV (Three-Ways Modulating Valve)
• Hard/flex hoses, tees, couplings and restrictors.
Figure 16: Architecture of the ATCS (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS)
The FCA is controlled by the TCU to provide constant mass flow rate inside the loop. In particular two flow rate set points are foreseen, one for nominal operation and one for contingency (with only one loop operative). The FCA also includes the TWMV, controlling the temperature at the ESM-CMA interface.
The external surface of the radiator panels is coated with a specific paint characterized by the following thermal-optical characteristics:
• Alpha (α) = 0.2
• Emissivity (ε) = 0.8.
The Cold Plates are devoted to collect the entire thermal load from the ESM avionics boxes. Their design is constituted by a stainless steel channelling enclosed in an aluminum casting acting as a plate in direct contact with the thermally active unit. Different Cold plate sizes, to satisfy the different configuration needs, are foreseen.
Figure 17: Photo of a sample radiator panel (image credit: ESA, TAS)
12) PTCS (Passive Thermal Control Subsystem): The PTCS provides the thermal control of ESM hardware (propulsion, CSS, power and avionic items) and reduces the temperature gradients and minimize heat flows through the internal elements. The PTCS has two main components, heaters (with thermistors and wire heater) and insulation (MLI thermal blankets, including some specific high temperature MLI blankets, for thrusters and engine nozzle thermal impingement protection).
The MLI protects the internal parts against the external environment and heater lines compensate the heat leaks toward space. Different MLI typologies, in terms of composition, have been identified for the different applications on the ESM. The MLI composition mainly depends on exposure or not to the space, geometry & fixation interfaces and exposure to thrusters plume flux and nozzle radiation.
Two cold redundant heater lines managed by the TCU assure thermal control and temperature uniformity in the Orion internals and for the local thermal control of specific items. In addition, heater lines managed by thermostats and powered by the PCDU (Power Control and Distribution Unit) provide a further redundancy to the environmental control function.
13) TCU (Thermal Control Unit): The TCU is designed to ensure the management of the TCS and of the CSS.
For the ATCS, the TCU acquires the various parameters from the ATCS sensors, monitors and commands the ATCS valves, and issues commands to the FCA (Flow Control Assembly).
For the PTCS, the TCU commands the heater chains and monitors the thermistors. It operates according to activation and de-activation thresholds defined and modified by the CM on-board computers, while ensuring bus interface and power supply logic.
For the CSS (Consumables Storage Subsystem), the TCU commands the valves and monitors their position. It also monitors the pressure and temperature parameters in the subsystem to support the system FDIR (Failure Detection, Isolation and Recovery).
Figure 18: Layout of the TCS (Thermal Control Subsystem), image credit: ESA, Airbus DS
CSS (Consumable Storage Subsystem): The CSS provides potable water, oxygen and nitrogen to the CM. It can also provide water for the sublimator located in the CMA via a dedicated kit composed by its own tank assy and distribution system, to be installed optionally for specific missions. It consists of the following major elements:
• WDS (Water Delivery Subystem)
• GDS (Gas Delivery Subsystem)
The architecture of the WDS is composed of the following components:
• Water tanks (metal bellow technology)
• Water on/off valves, (isolation valves)
• Temperature and quantity sensors
• 2 distribution lines towards the CMA I/F to supply water for the different CM/CMA needs.
The architecture of the GDS is composed of the following components:
• Gas tanks
• Gas pressure regulators
• Gas on/off valves, (isolation valves)
• Gas relief valves
• Temperature and pressure sensors
• Hydrophobic filters upstream the water tanks
• Distribution lines towards the CMA I/F to supply oxygen and nitrogen
• Distribution lines towards CMA I/F for GDS filling on ground from the GSE.
In the case of a configuration with WSK (Water Sublimator Kit) a set of 3 additional water tanks is introduced and interconnected to the others tanks and lines of CSS.
Figure 19: Layout of the CSS (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS)
PSS (Propulsion Subsystem): The propulsion subsystem design has to cope with a complex mission scenario. It includes three different types of engines / thrusters. Each of these thrusters utilizes the same propellants: MON-3 (Mixed Oxides of Nitrogen) as oxidizer and MMH (Monomethylhydrazine) as fuel.
The single Main Engine, which is one of the Shuttle OMS-E engines (27.7 kN), is delivered by NASA as GFE (Government Furnished Equipment) and will be used during ascent abort and trans-earth injection maneuvers as well as orbit change maneuvers. This engine is gimballed with an amplitude of ± 7° around both axes (pitch and yaw). The actuation is performed by the TVC (Thrust Vector Control).
The 8 auxiliary thrusters which are similar to those used on ATV (490 N) are used during ascent abort and launcher separation together with the main engine. They are also used as backup to the main engine for trans-earth injection and for trajectory correction maneuvers.
The 24 RCS thrusters which are the same as used on ATV (220 N) provide the impulse necessary for attitude control, small maneuvers and forced translation during Rendezvous and Proximity operation. These thrusters are accommodated into six pods. Two pods are composed of four roll thrusters, placed along the ESM lateral surface under the CMA, while four other pods are composed of four thrusters, placed along the ESM lateral surface under the level of the first four pods. Each propellant type is stored in two propellant tanks, both sets of propellant tanks being arranged in a series configuration.
The propellant distribution comprises several electromechanical valves for propellant isolation and pressure transducers interconnected via pipes. The assembly ensures isolation of the engine / thrusters from the propellant tanks during launch, docked phase to the ISS and other mission events where it becomes necessary to isolate the engine / thrusters from the propellant storage. The propellant distribution network provides the connections between the propellant tanks and the isolation valves and then onwards to the thruster assemblies. Fill and Drain Valves and the related access lines are used during ground testing and for loading and unloading of the propellant and pressurized tanks. They are located in the CMA to enable access even after the SAJ around the service module has been installed.
The propulsion subsystem is controlled by the PDE (Propulsion Drive Electronics) which handles all nominal propulsion related commands issued by the CM and provides feedback via the CMA PDUs (Power Distribution Units) and the PDUs to the vehicle management computer interface and the ESM network. The PDE controls all thrusters, the TVC and the associated valves, instrumentation and leakage detection.
The PRU (Pressure Regulation Unit) controls and monitors the operation of the pressure regulation valves, based on set points defined and modified by the on-board computers. The EPR (Electronic Pressure Regulation) selected for ESM has the advantage to optimize the pressure of propellant and oxidizer according to the engine in operation, at the price of an increased development risk for this function.
The EPR of the propulsion system propellant is a new technology for the European industry. The ATV design featured a mechanical pressure regulation like the propulsion system of the Shuttle OMS-E engine. The electronic pressure regulation allows a better control of the pressure, hence the fuel and oxidizer consumption is enabling to reduce propellant margins and the overall mass at launch. Airbus DS decided to venture in that new technology as a result of a trade-off taking into account the positive results obtained by Lockheed-Martin in breadboard testing. However, in the development of a new technology there is always the risk of not being successful especially if the development time is constrained.
To mitigate the impact to the project in case of unsuccessful development, it was decided to ensure that reverting to mechanical pressure regulation would be possible with minimum schedule impact. NASA provided Shuttle mechanical pressure regulators and valves to VACCO, the original manufacturer and Airbus DS ordered tests to ensure the hardware would satisfy the performance required for the ESM. Breadboard testing of the electronic regulation performed in Europe up to now delivered promising results and the probability of having to revert to mechanical pressure regulation is becoming more remote.
Figure 20: Layout of the propulsion subsystem (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS)
EPS (Electrical Propulsion Subsystem): The EPS has the function to generate the power for all modules of Orion. It manages the power provided by its 4 SAW (Solar Array Wings). The PCDU (Power Control and Distribution Unit) provides the power I/F to the SAW and CMA, distributes electrical power to ESM users and protects the power lines.
The power generation part of the ESM EPS consists of four SAW units. Each wing is composed of three deployable CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer) rigid panels covered with triple junction GaAs solar cells forming nine (9x) sections of solar cell strings. In nominal condition the SAW can supply a total 11.2 kW. Each SAW is linked to the ESM structure by a two degree of freedom SADA (Solar Array Drive Assembly). The SADA ensures the power and signal transfer from the SAW to the PCDU. It is composed of SADM (Solar Array Drive Mechanism) and a (SADE (Solar Array Drive). The SADM allows orienting the SAW in two independent axes. In the Sun-tracking mode the inner axis can swivel between -35º and +25º, while the outer axis has a continuous rotation capability (0º; +360º).
SADM of the ESM has a unique design incorporating a two axis gimbal. An inner axis provides rotation of the SAW about an axis perpendicular to the ESM longitudinal axis, and an outer axis which rotates the SAW about its own longitudinal axis. The two-axis capability is necessary for two reasons:
1) allow maximum sun tracking to meet the power requirements for particular vehicle attitudes of certain mission phases. Insufficient power is generated by the SAW with a single (roll) axis SADM not providing the avoidance capability of the shadowing effect of both the Orion vehicle on the SAW and the SAWs on each other
2) insure the structural integrity of the SAWs under injection maneuvers. For the trans-lunar injection performed with the upper stage of the Space Launch System rocket, actually the iCPS (interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage), the arrays are canted backwards to sustain in deployed configuration the 1 g acceleration load. For the trans-earth injection performed with the ESM main engine, the acceleration is less severe and the arrays have to be canted forwards to prevent damages from the OMS-E engine plume while minimizing the load on the SAWs.
The SADM also allows repositioning (canting) of the SAW to reduce the loads on the SAW and SADM during the different Orion orbital maneuvers. At TLI (Trans-Lunar Injection), a 0.5 g acceleration is generated by the iCPS engine and at LOI (Lunar Orbit Insertion) and TEI (Trans-Earth Injection) a 0.3 g deceleration is generated by the OMS-E engine.
As shown in Figure 21, in order to reduce these loads to an acceptable level, the SAWs need to be repositioned by the SADM. In TLI, the SAWs are thus canted during the maneuver to inner axis = - 60º / outer axis = 0 º. In LOI/TEI, the SAWs are canted to inner axis = +55º / outer axis = 0º.
Figure 21: Orion vehicle with ESM SAW canting angles (-60º / 0º @ TLI, +55º / 0º @ LOI/TEI), image credit: ESA, Airbus DS
The EPS distributes the generated power to the CMA/CM through four independent 120 V busses. The power interfaces of the PCDU protect each unregulated bus from overload or short circuit failures on feeder busses outside the PCDU. They are implemented with power devices connected in parallel and independently operated for power flow from PCDU to CMA PDU, plus a number of power diodes for power flow from CMA PDU to PCDU.
Avionics Subsystem: The high-level management of the vehicle and its functions is performed at the level of the Orion on-board computers. The ESM is controlled and monitored by specific electronic controller units. All units are connected via the ODN (Onboard Data Network) to the CMA/CM. All vehicle control and management software resides in the CM computers. The ODN is a three plane TTGbE (Time Triggered Gigabit Ethernet),1000Base-CX, according to standard SAE AS6802.
The Time-Triggered Gigabit Ethernet ODN provides a set of time-triggered services implemented on top of standard IEEE802.3 Ethernet. It provides the capability for deterministic, synchronous, and congestion-free communication, unaffected by any asynchronous Ethernet traffic load. By implementing this standard in network devices (network switches and network interface cards), Ethernet becomes a deterministic network. This means that distributed applications with mixed time-criticality requirements (e.g., real-time command and control, audio, video, voice, data) can be integrated and coexist on one Ethernet network.
Each of the ESM controller units is connected via a SNIC (Standard integrity Network-Interface Card), according to Honeywell ICD8273722, to the LAN switch located in the CMA. The SNICs have three ports for two failure-tolerant communication on three network redundancy planes.
Development: The challenging schedule of the program, with the ESM delivery planned for early 2017 and the EM-1 launch planned for 2018, is influencing the way the ESM is verified. Qualification has often to run in parallel to EM-1 flight model manufacturing and integration, bringing risk to the program. This risk is carefully monitored and risk reduction strategies are in place to ensure the program can proceed smoothly. The ESM verification is mostly accomplished at module level. A limited number of verifications is planned on the EM-1 flight model.
- The system PDR (Preliminary Design Review) was successfully concluded in the summer 2014.
- The system CDR (Critical Design Review) is scheduled for the end of2015 and will conclude with the board in February 2016.
Table 4: Summary of key aspects for an international partnership in the Orion program
Development status of Orion EM-1 (Exploration Module-1) and ESM (European Service Module):
• November 7, 2018: European module arrives at Kennedy Space Center: After a 24-hour journey from Bremen, Germany with stops in Hamburg and Portsmouth, USA, the European Service Module landed yesterday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Antonov An-124 aircraft landed on 6 November 2018 at 11:35 EST, local time. 13)
- The first service module is a key component that will see Orion around the Moon for Exploration Mission-1. It will make the powerful burns required to enter and exit lunar orbit as well as softer burns to allow for space maneuvering and course correction. After years of designing, building, and testing in Europe, the powerhouse that will propel NASA's Orion spacecraft to the Moon will soon be mated with the rest of the spacecraft to undergo final testing before flight.
- The European Service Module is a truly European endeavor. Primary components were built and integrated in Italy and Germany, with smaller components delivered from several European nations, including the solar arrays from the Netherlands.
- ESA's partnership with NASA takes this European effort to the global stage. For the first time, NASA will use a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft, extending the international cooperation of the International Space Station into deep space.
- The trust in European know-how is thanks to the successful Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) program that provided reliable cargo deliveries to the Space Station. ATV's engineering and operational legacy were crucial to developing the European Service Module, which some of its flight-proven hardware, such as the auxiliary thrusters and pressurization tanks.
Figure 22: Orion: an international collaboration. Orion is NASA's next spacecraft to send humans into space. It is designed to send astronauts farther into space than ever before, beyond the Moon to asteroids and even Mars. ESA has designed and is overseeing the development of Orion's service module, the part of the spacecraft that supplies air, electricity and propulsion. Much like a train engine pulls passenger carriages and supplies power, the European Service Module will take the Orion capsule to its destination and back (image credit: ESA, K. Oldenburg)
Legend to Figure 22: The Orion spacecraft is built by NASA with ESA providing the service module. The arrangement stems from the international partnership for the International Space Station. NASA's decision to cooperate with ESA on a critical element for the mission is a strong sign of trust and confidence in ESA's capabilities. More than 20 companies around Europe are now building the European Service Module as NASA works on Orion and the Space Launch System.
- Next steps: Next up for the ESM-1 (European Service Module-1) is unloading and unpacking. The unit will be checked for integrity after its transatlantic flight and then unloaded in the Operations & Checkout (O&C) building at Kennedy Space Center.
- Some parts of the ESM-1 have already been shipped by sea in two containers and are already awaiting the arrival of the larger air shipment. These include nozzle covers, heat shield, and insulation layers, among other components. The solar arrays will arrive in February 2019.
- Once in the O&C, the ESM-1 will be fitted to the Crew Module Adapter (CMA) to form the Orion Service Module. This process takes some time, as all fluid and gas pipes must be welded and electrical wiring connected. The crew module will then be mated with the service module and the completely integrated spacecraft will head to NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Ohio for a 60-day test campaign. The entire spacecraft will be subjected to intense launch conditions in the world's largest vacuum chamber.
- Once complete, the spacecraft will travel back to Kennedy Space Center to meet its launcher, the Space Launch Systems (SLS) rocket, and prepare for its first mission, a lunar orbital mission without astronauts, to demonstrate the spacecraft's capabilities.
- Work is already underway on the second European Service Module which will provide air, water, and temperature control for the astronauts that will fly on Orion's Exploration Mission-2.
- ESA is immensely proud to play a crucial role in humanity's return to the Moon, thanks to the hard work and determination of the many teams involved in bringing the European Service Module to this next step on the journey back to the Moon.
• November 6, 2018: The powerhouse that will help NASA's Orion spacecraft venture beyond the Moon is stateside. The European-built service module that will propel, power and cool during Orion flight to the Moon on Exploration Mission-1 arrived from Germany at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday to begin final outfitting, integration and testing with the crew module and other Orion elements (Figure 23). 14)
- The service module is integral to human missions to the Moon and Mars. After Orion launches on top of the agency's Space Launch System rocket, the service module will be responsible for in-space maneuvering throughout the mission, including course corrections. The service module will also provide the powerful burns to insert Orion into lunar orbit and again to get out of lunar orbit and return to Earth. It is provided by ESA (European Space Agency) and built by ESA's prime contractor Airbus of Bremen, Germany. NASA's prime contractor for Orion, Lockheed Martin, built the crew module and other elements of the spacecraft.
- "We have a strong foundation of cooperation with ESA through the International Space Station partnership, and the arrival of the service module signifies that our international collaboration extends to our deep space human exploration efforts as well," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.
- The European-built service module brings together new technology and lightweight materials while taking advantage of spaceflight-proven hardware. It is comprised of more than 20,000 components, including four solar array wings that provide enough electricity to power two three-bedroom homes, as well as an orbital maneuvering system engine, a recently refurbished engine previously used for in-orbit control by the space shuttle. Beginning with Exploration Mission-2, the module also will provide air and water for astronauts flying inside Orion, which will carry people to destinations farther than anyone has travelled before and return them safely to Earth.
- "Our teams have worked together incredibly hard to develop a service module that will make missions to the Moon and beyond a reality," said Mark Kirasich, NASA's Orion program manager. "It is quite an accomplishment of ESA and Airbus to have completed the developmental work on the module and have this major delivery milestone behind us."
- Now that the service module is at Kennedy, it will undergo a host of tests and integration work ahead of Exploration Mission-1. Engineers will complete functional checkouts to ensure all elements are working properly before it is connected to the Orion crew module. Teams will weld together fluid lines to route gases and fuel and make electrical wiring connections. The service module and crew module will be mated, and the combined spacecraft will be sent to NASA's Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Ohio early next year where it will undergo 60 days of continuous testing in the world's largest thermal vacuum chamber to ensure Orion can withstand the harsh environment of deep space. Once that testing is complete, it will return to Kennedy for integration with the SLS rocket in preparation for launch.
- NASA is leading the next steps to establish a permanent human presence at the Moon. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Exploration Mission-1 is a flight test of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket that will launch from NASA's modernized spaceport at Kennedy. The mission will send Orion 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back and pave the road for future missions with astronauts. Together, NASA and its partners will build the infrastructure needed to explore the Moon for decades to come while laying the groundwork for future missions to Mars.
Figure 23: The European Service Module for NASA's Orion spacecraft was loaded on an Antonov airplane in Bremen, Germany, on Nov. 5, 2018, for transport to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For the first time, NASA will use a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft, extending the international cooperation of the International Space Station into deep space (image credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak)
• October 30, 2018: The European Service Module that will power and propel the Orion spacecraft on its first mission around the Moon will ship early next week from Bremen to the United States. It will take off in an Antonov An-124 aircraft in the early hours of 5 November and arrive at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US on 6 November. 15)
- Designed and manufactured in Italy and Germany, the powerful workhorse is Europe's contribution to humanity's return to the Moon.
- Trusted partner: For the first time, NASA will use a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft, thanks in large part to ESA's successful Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) program that brought supplies to the International Space Station.
- The knowledge gained by ESA and European industry from designing, building and operating the complex and successful Automated Transfer Vehicle missions was instrumental for ESA's participation in NASA's Orion spacecraft.
- The unit resembles ATV, from which it evolved. Three types of engine will propel Orion to its destination and can turn it in all directions to align the spacecraft as needed.
- Inside the European Service Module, large tanks hold fuel as well consumables for the astronauts: oxygen, nitrogen and water.
- Radiators and heat exchangers keep the astronauts and equipment at a comfortable temperature, while the module's structure is the backbone of the entire vehicle, like a car chassis.
- The European Service Module was built by main contractor Airbus Defence and Space, with many companies all over Europe supplying components.
- Once at Kennedy Space Center, the European Service Module will be connected to the Orion crew module and its adapter in preparation for Exploration Mission-1 – a test flight without astronauts that will travel farther into space than any human-rated spacecraft has ventured. The mission is expected to launch in 2020.
- Work is already underway on the second European Service Module that will power a crewed mission around the Moon.
- The Orion spacecraft will eventually launch together with components of the Gateway, a human-tended outpost in lunar orbit that will aid human and robotic exploration of the Moon.
• October 29, 2018: Aerojet Rocketdyne recently completed qualification testing for the enhanced reaction control thruster system for NASA's Orion crew vehicle, helping to clear the way for the Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft's second test flight, and first mission to cislunar space, called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). 16)
- The RCS (Reaction Control System) is the only means of guiding the Orion crew module after it separates from its service module in preparation for atmospheric reentry and subsequent splashdown. Consisting of 12 MR-104G hydrazine thrusters capable of 160 pounds of thrust each, the system also will ensure that the spacecraft is properly oriented (with its heat shield pointed downward) for reentry, and stable during descent.
- Aerojet Rocketdyne employed cutting-edge additive manufacturing processes, also known as 3D printing, in fabricating the RCS engine nozzle extensions. These 3D printed components, along with other items on the spacecraft, mark one of the first times in history that a spacecraft carrying humans will incorporate additively manufactured parts.
- "Additive manufacturing eliminates traditional design constraints, as well as reduces manufacturing times," said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. "Our use of 3D printing on Orion is just one example of how we are incorporating this breakthrough technology across our portfolio of propulsion products."
- During the yearlong qualification test program at Aerojet Rocketdyne's Redmond, Washington, facility, a single engine was subjected to shock and vibration, exceeding the maximum stresses expected during the upcoming EM-1 launch. For EM-1, Orion will be launched toward the Moon on the maiden flight of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The non-flight test engine – drawn from the same production lot as the EM-1 RCS flight engines – burned through 619 pounds of propellant during the test program, accumulating 962 seconds of total firing time.
- "Following our rigorous qualification testing program, we're confident that this enhanced RCS system is ready to fly," added Drake. "The reaction control thrusters are critical to the Orion capsule's safe return to Earth at the completion of EM-1 as well as future crewed missions."
- The EM-1 RCS thruster design builds on the flight proven engine demonstrated on the Exploration Flight Test-1 mission in 2014. The enhanced system features a stronger structure, increased resistance to thermal stresses and reduced mass. The improved manufacturing process updated the system to account for changed loads and to ultimately increase affordability.
- On EM-1 an uncrewed Orion spacecraft will launch into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon before returning to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. It will be followed by EM-2, during which Orion will fly near the Moon with astronauts on board.
- In addition to the RCS, Aerojet Rocketdyne is supplying the main- and upper-stage liquid engines for the SLS, and well as the jettison motor that will separate Orion's launch abort system from the crew module shortly after activation of the SLS's second stage. The company also is supplying the auxiliary thrusters for Orion's European Service Module (ESM), and supported a NASA-led effort to modify a Space Shuttle OMS-E engine, originally built by Aerojet Rocketdyne for its new application as the ESM main maneuvering engine.
• October 23, 2018: After years of planning, development, building and integration, the European Service module that will power the Orion spacecraft on its journey into lunar space is ready to be shipped. In November the fully integrated, tested, and sealed European workhorse will leave Bremen on an Antonov cargo plane for Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA where it will be integrated with the rest of the Orion spacecraft. 17)
- ESA's European service module will provide power, water, air and electricity to NASA's Orion exploration spacecraft that will eventually fly beyond the Moon with astronauts. The European Service Module is now complete for Orion's first mission that will do a lunar fly-by without astronauts to demonstrate the spacecraft's capabilities.
- Orion's solar wings will be shipped separately, also from Bremen. In the USA the module will be stacked together with NASA's Crew Module Adaptor and Crew Module, the first time the complete spacecraft will be on display.
- More tests await the Orion spacecraft at NASA's Plum Brook facility where it will be put in the world's largest vacuum chamber to simulate spaceflight as well as being subjected to acoustic tests to simulate the intense vibrations Orion will endure when launched on the world's largest rocket, NASA's Space Launch Systems.
- This is a proud moment for Europe. For the first time, NASA will use a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft, extending the international cooperation of the International Space Station into deep space.
- Work is already underway on the second European Service Module. The structure is complete and over 11 km of cables are being meticulously placed in preparation for the computers and equipment that will keep astronauts alive and well for the second Orion mission called EM-2 (Exploration Mission-2).
Figure 24: Human and robotic exploration image of the week: The European Service Module of the Orion spacecraft is ready for shipment to the US (image credit: Airbus)
• October 2018: Following a very successful year of manufacturing, assembly and testing in factories located around the globe, NASA and ESA are preparing to deliver the major Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) Orion flight elements, including the Crew Module, ESA Service Module and Launch Abort System. This international effort to design and develop a deep space exploration capable human spacecraft is rapidly transitioning from the design, development and test phase to the early test flight and production phase. Two major flight tests, an Ascent Abort test and EM-1, Orion's first flight onboard NASA's new heavy lift Space Launch System, are planned for the near future. Further, Orion will play a crucial role in the ambitious new Deep Space Gateway human exploration Program. 18)
• September 18, 2018: Last week at the Airbus integration hall in Bremen, Germany, technicians installed the last radiator on the European Service Module for NASA's Orion spacecraft marking the module's finished integration. 19)
- ESA's European service module will provide power, water, air and electricity to NASA's Orion exploration spacecraft that will eventually fly beyond the Moon with astronauts. The European Service Module is now complete for Orion's first mission that will do a lunar fly-by without astronauts to demonstrate the spacecraft's capabilities.
Figure 25: Technicians instal the radiators on the European Service Module for NASA's Orion spacecraft marking the module's finished integration (image credit: ESA–A. Conigli)
- Much like closing the bonnet on a car, with the radiators in place technicians can no longer access the internals of the European service module, symbolically ending the assembly and integration of the module that will fly further into our Solar System than any other human-rated spacecraft has ever flown before.
- Technicians worked 24 hours a day in three shifts to complete the service module's assembly which is now going through the last stages of its extensive testing. Engineers will put the module through its paces with functional tests that include checking the newly installed radiators and testing the propulsion system with its intricate pipelines that deliver fuel and oxidizer to the spacecraft's 33 engines.
Figure 26: View from below: Orion European Service Module-1. Technicians work underneath the European Service Module for NASA's Orion spacecraft, September 2018 (image credit: ESA–A. Conigli)
- Once complete the service module will be packed and flown to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. Orion's solar wings will be shipped separately, also from Bremen. In the USA the module will be stacked together with NASA's Crew Module Adaptor and Crew Module, the first time the complete spacecraft will be on display.
- More tests await the Orion spacecraft at NASA's Plum Brook facility where it will be put in the world's largest vacuum chamber to simulate spaceflight as well as being subjected to acoustic tests to simulate the intense vibrations Orion will endure when launched on the world's largest rocket, NASA's Space Launch Systems.
- Second module getting ready: Meanwhile technicians in Bremen are not resting as work on the second European Service Module is already well under way. The structure is complete and over 11 km of cables are being meticulously placed in preparation for the computers and equipment that will keep astronauts alive and well for the second Orion mission called Exploration Mission-2.
• August 16, 2018: Technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida recently secured the heat shield to the bottom of the crew module, using 68 bolts. Designed and manufactured by Orion prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, the heat shield is like an intricate puzzle with pieces that all have to fit together perfectly. Before the final installation, a fit check was performed to ensure all of the bolt fittings lined up. 20)
Figure 27: Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians check fittings during installation of the heat shield to the Orion crew module July 25, 2018, inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida (image credit: NASA)
- "Installation of the EM-1 crew module heat shield is a significant milestone representing the beginning of closing out the crew module assembly," said Jules Schneider, Lockheed Martin Orion senior manager for KSC Operations. "When the heat shield is installed, access to components becomes more difficult, and in some cases there is no more access. So by installing the heat shield you are declaring that a certain percentage of the spacecraft is finished."
- Measuring 5.06 m in diameter, Orion's new heat shield is the largest of its kind developed for missions that will carry astronauts. The heat shield base structure has a titanium truss covered with a composite substrate, or a skin composed of layers of carbon fiber material.
- In a new process, several large blocks of an ablative material called Avcoat, licensed from Boston-based Textron Systems, were produced at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans by Lockheed Martin. They were shipped to Kennedy, where Lockheed Martin technicians machined them into more than 180 unique blocks and bonded them to the heat shield's surface.
- To fill tiny gaps between the blocks, the seams were filled with a mixture that over time will become solid. Technicians applied a coat of white epoxy paint to the heat shield's surface and then applied aluminized tape after the painted surface dried. The tape provides surface resistivity, and absorbs solar heat and infrared emissions.
- While Avcoat isn't new to spacecraft – it was used on the heat shields of Apollo and the Orion EFT-1 (Exploration Flight Test-1) – the technique of using blocks instead of injecting the ablative material is proving to be a real production time-saver.
- "A benefit of switching from the honeycomb system to the blocks is we now can make the Avcoat blocks at the same time that the Orion structure is being made, and when the module is ready we can secure the blocks, which saves time," said John Kowal, NASA Orion Thermal Protection System manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Before, with EFT-1, we had to wait for the carrier portion to be done, and then apply the Avcoat directly to the crew module."
- During its first mission around the Moon, engineers will monitor how Orion's systems perform in the environment of deep space and its return to Earth. During re-entry the ablative material of the Avcoat blocks will burn away, essentially carrying the heat away from Orion because of the gases created during the ablative process.
• June 6, 2018: At centers across NASA, the agency is rocketing ahead toward Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) and Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2). 21)
- EM-1 and EM-2 are the final stages of a three-part mission series designed to establish NASA's new Exploration Class human spaceflight capability. The first stage, Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), was completed in 2014 when a Delta IV Heavy rocket sent the uncrewed Orion capsule 3,600 miles from Earth.
- "It was the first time that we had flown a vehicle designed to carry humans that far away from Earth," said Dr. Ellen Ochoa, former Johnson Space Center (JSC) director, speaking at JSC about ongoing efforts to expand manned deep space exploration. "[EFT-1] was testing the items that are really most critical for crew survival, including things like the parachute system and the heat shield. It made headlines not only around the country but around the world. And it's really just a hint of things to come."
- The next stage of the mission is EM-1. Scheduled for 2020, it will be the first integrated flight of Orion and the Space Launch System (SLS), the world's most powerful launch vehicle. EM-1 will be followed by EM-2 in 2023: the first flight to unite crew with Orion and the SLS. EM-2 will take astronauts 40,000 miles past the moon—farther than any manned spacecraft has ever gone.
- Before EM-2 can get off the ground, the agency will conduct a flight test in 2019 called the Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2). The test will examine Orion's launch abort system (LAS), which makes it possible to rescue the crew in the event of a catastrophic malfunction during launch.
- "It's really the only full-scale system test that we have before we put crew on the vehicle. So it's definitely critical for making sure that we can get the crew safely away in an emergency," said Jennifer Devolites, AA-2 crew module deputy manager.
- For the three-minute test, the LAS will be launched from Cape Canaveral on a solid rocket motor providing 500,000 pounds of thrust (2224 kN) to propel the system six miles up to the abort condition. At that point, the crew module flight computers will send commands to light the abort motor rocket and separate the crew module from the booster.
- "When the abort motor fires, it pulls the crew module away from the booster extremely fast. After 1.1 seconds after abort, we've got greater than five F-22 fighter jets on full afterburners in terms of thrust," said Devolites. "After 15 seconds, the crew modules gain more than two miles of altitude. At around 43,000 feet, the attitude control motor starts to reorient the system. And then after reorientation is complete, the LAS separates to allow the capsule to descend safely back to Earth."
- Work on the rest of the Orion spacecraft is moving forward as well. "Orion is more than just a crew module. It's a complex set of systems—life support, propulsion, thermal control," said Annette Hasbrook, assistant manager for Orion Program Integration. "Down at the Kennedy Space Center, we're making great progress. That is our production facility and that's where we're assembling the Exploration Mission 1 spacecraft."
- Below the crew module sits the ESM (European Service Module), which is being provided by ESA (European Space Agency). "The ESM is being assembled in Bremen by the Airbus Corporation," said Hasbrook. "They are in almost final assembly and test and will be bringing that service module, delivering it to the Kennedy Space Center later this summer. Once that arrives, we have a 404-day timeline from the time we bring it in until we turn it over to the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center for final integration onto the amazing SLS rocket for launch."
- The agency is also in build for EM-2. "We have multiple vehicles in flow, and the Exploration Mission 2 spacecraft is currently under assembly at the Michoud Assembly Facility down in Louisiana. They're building their primary structure and that's going to be delivered to KSC later this summer to begin its integration," Holbrook added.
- While work continues on Orion and the SLS, NASA is also making plans to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s. This manned spaceport, which will be constructed on orbit, will include a power and propulsion element as well as habitation, logistics, and airlock capabilities.
- "NASA and its partners will use the Gateway for deep space operations, including missions on the moon, with decreasing reliance on Earth. We'll use the lunar orbit as a place to stage: where we will actually build up a small crew-tended spaceport that will then do testing. We will learn about what's going on at the moon, we'll do testing on the moon surface, and then we will build up, do other testing, and move on to Mars," said Vanessa Wyche, director of the Exploration Integration and Science Directorate at JSC.
- The power and propulsion element for the Gateway is being led by NASA/GRC (Glenn Research Center). The habitation systems are in design, with concepts being worked by five commercial partners. "Of those five companies, there are two that are going to do ground testing here at the Johnson Space Center. We're readying ourselves for the hardware to show up so that we will test it. That will happen next summer," added Wyche.
- At JSC, the work for EM-1 and EM-2 is being conducted using a "lean development" approach. "That's been really one of the goals of this project as well. To look at how we can do things differently. Find more efficiencies," said Devolites.
- One of the areas they have focused on is developing a team culture that encourages people to innovate. "We also reduce cost and schedule through iterative systems engineering," said Devolites. "By doing that, we actually had 90% of our flight software complete by the time we got to our Critical Design Review because of all the early integrated testing that we did. And we also used an agile software development process for that." Additionally, the center employs a data-centric, online collaborative system to enhance systems engineering and team communication. This has produced two important results: less paperwork and fast decision-making.
- While the focus of EM-1 and EM-2 is on advancing human spaceflight farther than ever before, the mission benefits can be felt on Earth as well. NASA's work on Orion and the SLS is supported by companies in 49 of the 50 states. These efforts are fueling industries and technology development across the nation, helping advance job opportunities and workforce skill development.
• April 23, 2018: The European service module that will provide power, water, air and electricity to NASA's Orion Moon module has taken a large step closer to completion with the installation of its fuel tanks and testing of its solar wings. 22)
- The large tanks that will provide propellant for the spacecraft are now fitting snugly inside the spacecraft at the Airbus assembly hall in Bremen, Germany.
Figure 28: The large tanks that will provide propellant for the spacecraft are now fitting snugly inside the spacecraft. The four tanks will each contain about 2000 liters of propellant. In the vacuum of space there is no air to burn so spacecraft fuel tanks include oxidizer and fuel that are mixed to ignite and provide thrust (image credit: Airbus)
Legend to Figure 28: The two sets of tanks are connected by intricate pipelines to 33 engines. Sensors and computers control the system. The European service module is a small but complex spacecraft packed with equipment. The large tanks are installed as one of the last components to allow technicians more room to work.
- Meanwhile the solar arrays Orion will use to produce electricity are being tested at ESA's technical heart in the Netherlands. Folded for launch, the fragile solar panels need to survive the rumbling into space aboard the most powerful rocket ever built, NASA's Space Launch System.
- Orion's solar panels will be folded inside the rocket fairing on the first leg of the trip around the Moon. Once released from the rocket they will unfold and rotate towards the Sun to start delivering power.
- To make sure the solar panels will work after the intense launch, ESA engineers are putting them through rigorous tests that exceed what they will experience on launch day. This includes vibrating them on a shaking table and placing them in front of enormous speakers that recreate the harsh launch conditions.
• April 20, 2018: A few multi-layer windows on a spacecraft provide astronauts the view they may need for navigating space and carrying out their exploration mission with visual data. NASA is working to improve the durability of those windows, and reduce cost and weight, while maintaining the clarity astronauts need to carry out their tasks and view the Earth and other destinations as they travel farther into the solar system. 23)
- The space shuttle used only glass panes for its primary windows. While these provided good optical quality, they added costly mass to the spacecraft. Modern spacecraft windows incorporate acrylic and other plastics that are lighter, stronger and less brittle, but often provide lower quality optical properties.
Figure 29: Inside a laboratory in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Mark Nurge, Ph.D., at left, a physicist in the Applied Physics Lab with the center's Exploration Research and Technology Programs, and Bence Bartha, Ph.D., a specialist in non-destructive testing with URS Federal Services, are performing the first optical quality testing on a full window stack that is ready for installation in the docking hatch of NASA's Orion spacecraft. The data from the tests will help improve the requirements for manufacturing tolerances on Orion's windows and verify how the window should perform in space. Orion is being prepared for its first integrated uncrewed flight test atop NASA's Space Launch System rocket on Exploration Mission-1 (photo credit: NASA/Amanda Griffin)
• March 6, 2018 (update), Jan. 5, 2018: Engineers preparing NASA's deep space exploration systems to support missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond are gearing up for a busy 2018. The agency aims to complete the manufacturing of all the major hardware by the end of the year for EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1), which will pave the road for future missions with astronauts. Planes, trains, trucks and ships will move across America and over oceans to deliver hardware for assembly and testing of components for the Orion spacecraft and the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket while teams at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida prepare the Ground Systems infrastructure. Testing will take place from the high seas to the high skies and in between throughout the year and across the country, not only in support of EM-1, but also for all subsequent missions.24)
• March 5, 2018: With the arrival of the Orion crew module to be used in the Ascent Abort-2 test at Johnson Space Center in Houston, the team is already at work with a lean, iterative development approach to minimize cost and ensure the flight test stays on schedule. 25)
- The approach involves considering how to do things differently, finding ways to execute elements of the buildup more efficiently and pushing on the norms of doing business to see if there are areas where productivity can be enhanced.
- Engineers and technicians at NASA/LaRC (Langley Research Center) in Hampton, Virginia modified a previously built Orion test vehicle for the flight. Development hardware from the Pad Abort-1 test is being reused and components such as radio frequency transmitters have been repurposed to support characterization and integrated tests. Shuttle heritage hardware, such as pyrotechnic control cards that otherwise were not being used, are being integrated into flight designs which allows the team to avoid building or building everything new. Flight and ground software architectures have been evolved from other development projects.
- Engineers involved in outfitting the crew module simultaneously are being trained to be flight controllers who will supervise the test when it launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Since the engineers involved in the work are extremely knowledge about the vehicle's systems, they are being trained as operators and builders at the same time.
- Several milestones lay ahead of the team now that the crew module has arrived at Johnson. In the spring, various subsystem elements will be incorporated into the vehicle. In June, it will be powered "on" for the first time to ensure all the proper connections are made and the vehicle can execute its flight profile. After testing and verification, the crew module will be attached to a test rig and rotated sideways so engineers can once again measure mass and center-of-gravity. These attributes must mirror those projected for the first Orion with crew to ensure the AA-2 crew module will provide representative data.
- "We're going to integrate hundreds of elements into the crew module," said Jon Olansen, manager of the Ascent Abort-2 test crew module. "To get the vehicle ready to execute this critical test for future crew safety, we will install the avionics, power and communication components, the guidance, navigation and control instruments, all the interconnecting electrical wiring, and load the software to control it all. We will also install the flight instrumentation and data retrieval systems and a variety of sensors that will collect data essential for characterizing the performance of the vehicle during and after an abort."
- Once complete, the crew module will be sent to NASA Glenn's Plum Brook Station in Ohio, where it will undergo testing in an acoustic chamber to characterize how the structure will react to the abort environment. While the crew module is at Plum Brook, a separation ring that will connect the capsule to its booster will arrive at Johnson and be outfitted with wiring and other necessary elements. The crew module will return to Johnson in September and be mated with the separation ring before the two elements are then tested together and shipped to Kennedy Space Center in December.
- NASA's work to build the test article and execute the flight test is a combined effort between the Orion Program and Advanced Exploration Systems Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Figure 30: Technicians lower the crew module for Ascent Abort-2 onto a stand at Johnson Space Center in Houston on March 2 (image credit: NASA, Robert Markowitz)
• February 16, 2018: When NASA's Orion spacecraft launches into space atop the agency's Space Launch System rocket on its first uncrewed integrated flight, Exploration Mission-1, it will travel thousands of miles beyond the Moon and return to Earth for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. While traveling to deep space, Orion will experience extreme hot and cold temperatures, with re-entry temperatures nearing 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (~2700ºC). 26)
- Before Orion is exposed to the harsh conditions of launch, deep space and re-entry, it is being prepared and tested inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- The Orion Program successfully completed a thermal cycle test on the Orion crew module inside a specially constructed thermal cycle chamber in the airlock of the high bay. Over the next five days, the crew module was rapidly cycled between hot and cold temperatures to thermally stress the hardware and ensure the workmanship of the crew module's critical hardware and its subsystem operations. The cycle of temperatures for the initial thermal test ranged from 29º to 129ºF (-1.66ºC to 53.9ºC) during 105 hours of testing.
- "Our goal was to expose the vehicle to rapid changes in temperature to see how Orion and its systems performed," said Rafael Garcia, Orion Program Test and Verification lead. "When the test was completed, we found no major issues."
- NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers in three different areas conducted and monitored the test, including the team in the high bay near the chamber controls, the ground test instrumentation readout area, and the Test and Launch Control Center, where system managers powered on and monitored the crew module's subsystems.
- A thermal cycle test of Orion's integrated crew and service module, along with electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing, is scheduled for early next year at NASA Glenn's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. While testing at Kennedy helps ensure Orion is ready for EM-1, Plum Brook facilities can simulate more extreme conditions and will help validate the integrated spacecraft design for future missions. The service module is the powerhouse of the spacecraft, providing it with the electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air and water it will need in space.
- During EM-1, the Orion crew module structure will reach temperatures ranging from minus 300 F to plus 250 F (-184ºC to +121ºC) depending on the Sun's angle on its way to the Moon.
• February 14, 2018: Construction of the living and working area for the first crewed Orion spacecraft is well underway at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. Building on lessons learned from previous construction, Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin has already completed four of the seven welds necessary to assemble the crew module pressure vessel. 27)
- Current schedules call for the completed pressure vessel to be shipped in September to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, where it will be outfitted to fly on EM-2 (Exploration Mission-2).
Figure 31: EM-2 welding taking place at MAF (image credit: NASA)
• October 12, 2017: While engineers in Europe continue to outfit the Orion spacecraft's service module for EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1) in preparation for shipment to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida next year, work is already beginning on the service module that will power, propel, cool and provide air and water for the first crewed mission in the Orion spacecraft in the early 2020s. Technicians at Thales Alenia in Turin, Italy, are working on the primary structure of the European Service Module that will carry astronauts in Orion beyond the Moon during EM-2 (Exploration Mission-2). ESA (European Space Agency) and its contractors are providing Orion's service module for its first two missions atop the Space Launch System rocket. NASA is leading the next steps in human space exploration and will send astronauts to the vicinity of the Moon to build and test the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars. NASA is working with domestic and international partners to solve the great challenges of deep space exploration. 28) 29) 30)
Figure 32: Work progresses on Orion Powerhouse for Crewed Mission (image credit: NASA, Rad Sinyak)
• August 24, 2017: Engineers at Lockheed Martin and NASA breathed life into the next Orion crew module when they powered up the spacecraft for the first time at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Designed for human spaceflight, this Orion will be the first to fly more than 60,000 km beyond the Moon during its nearly three-week EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1), a feat that hasn't been possible before. 31) 32)
- "Orion was designed from the beginning to take humanity farther into space than we've ever gone, and to do this, its systems have to be very robust and reliable," said Mike Hawes, vice president and Orion program manager at Lockheed Martin. "Over the last year, we've built great momentum in assembling the crew module for EM-1. Everyone on the team understands how crucial this test campaign is, and more importantly, what this spacecraft and mission means to our country and future human space flight."
- The initial power-on event was the first time the vehicle management computers and the power and data units were installed on the crew module, loaded with flight software and tested. Evaluating these core systems, thought of as the "brain and heart" of the Orion capsule, is the first step in testing all of the crew module subsystems.
- Although astronauts will not fly in this capsule on this flight, a large majority of the subsystems and avionics are the same design that astronauts will rely on during following missions with Orion into the solar system. Launching on NASA's Space Launch System — the most powerful rocket in the world — the EM-1 flight is critical to confirming the Orion spacecraft and all of its interdependent systems operate as designed in the unforgiving environment of deep space.
- With the successful initial power on behind them, engineers and technicians will now continue integrating the 55 components that make up the spacecraft avionics suite, connecting them with nearly 400 harnesses. Over the course of the next two to three months, as each system is installed, they will perform thorough functional tests to ensure Orion is ready to move to the all-important environmental testing phase.
• April 6, 2017: Curtiss-Wright's Defense Solutions division has successfully delivered eight of the nine data acquisition flight units that it is building for use on NASA's Orion spacecraft planned for use in EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1), Orion's second test flight in space. 36)
- For the Orion EM-1 flight, Curtiss-Wright supplies its MnACQ-2000 Miniature Network Data Acquisition System, a compact, stackable Fast Ethernet 100BASE-T-based networked encoding unit that processes and delivers packetized instrumentation data to designated network nodes. Each of the nine rugged COTS-based units built for Orion EM-1 includes a radiation tolerant power supply, system management overhead and the specific signal conditioning modules needed to address the number and type of measurements needed during flight.
- Two 12-Port Ethernet switches that tie the system together and route the data and video have also been delivered for the Orion EM-1 flight. Curtiss-Wright expects to deliver the ninth and final MnACQ-2000 by the end of June 2017.
• February 27, 2017: ESA's contribution to NASA's Orion spacecraft is the European Service Module, providing the spacecraft with its main power source and propulsion mechanism. Designed by Airbus Defence and Space and assembled by OHB Sweden, the Propulsion Qualification Model was shipped to the NASA's White Sands facility in January. 37)
- The model is now set up and awaiting extensive testing by NASA, ESA and Airbus. Its 21 engines, including the Shuttle OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) engine, eight auxiliary thrusters and 12 smaller thrusters will undergo ‘hot firing', in which all engines will be ignited.
Figure 33: The European propulsion system of the Orion spacecraft has been installed at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico and is ready for testing (image credit: NASA)
• February 16, 2017: Airbus DS has signed a new contract with ESA (European Space Agency) for the construction of the second European service module (ESM) for NASA's Orion spacecraft. The contract is worth around € 200 million. The ESM is a key element of Orion, the next-generation spacecraft that will take astronauts beyond LEO (Low Earth Orbit) for the first time since the end of the Apollo program. 38)
• In mid-January 2017, Airbus Defence and Space delivered to NASA a propulsion test module for the Orion program. The PQM (Propulsion Qualification Test Model) will be used to check that the Orion ESM (European Service Module) spacecraft's propulsion subsystem functions correctly. On behalf of ESA, Airbus DS is the prime contractor for the ESM, a key element of NASA's next generation Orion spacecraft. 39)
- Although the PQM will never see space, this is an important step in the development of the Orion program. Complex systems for human spaceflight must first be tested and qualified on Earth before being used as flight hardware in space. The engineers want to determine how the system behaves in different environments, to ensure that it functions properly.
- The test module is travelling via Bremerhaven and Houston / USA to its final destination at NASA's WSTF (White Sands Test Facility) near Las Cruces in New Mexico / USA. Arrival is expected mid-February. The tests will take place later in the year at WSTF for the qualification of Orion ESM's propulsion subsystem.
• On December 12, 2016, ESA handed over ownership of the Orion European Service Module test article to NASA at the agency's Plum Brook facility in Sandusky, Ohio – marking the end of individual testing for the structure. 40)
- The module sits directly below Orion's crew capsule and provides propulsion, power, thermal control, and water and air for four astronauts. The solar array spans 19 m and provides enough electricity to power two households.
- From a design perspective, the launch is one of the most demanding moments in a mission. Orion will sit atop the SLS (Space Launch System) and more than 2500 tons of propellant. The vibrations and forces are intense until they reach the relative calm of space.
- To ensure the service module can withstand these forces, it is placed on a large table that shakes and moves to recreate the vibrations of launch. Almost 1000 sensors monitor how the 35 ton spacecraft flexes and withstands the stress. The blue wires carry the data during the tests for later analysis.
- The tests are running smoothly and the first flight model is already being built in Bremen, Germany. It will be shipped to the USA next year for more testing and final integration ahead of launch at the end of 2018.
Figure 34: This test article of the Orion ESM has the same structure and mass as the real thing but does not include the electronics and engines. It is being used to confirm the design before starting to build the flight version (image credit: ESA)
• January 2, 2017: A former space shuttle OMS-E (Orbital Maneuvering System-Engine) has been delivered to Germany for attachment to the European-built service module destined to steer NASA's next Orion spacecraft (EM-1) on a course around the moon on an uncrewed test flight in late 2018. 41)
- The engine was refurbished and reassembled at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, then shipped to Johnson Space Center in Houston for shake testing and returned to White Sands for leak tests, according to an ESA (European Space Agency) blog post. 42)
- It flew from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Frankfurt last month, and then continued its journey by truck to Airbus Defense and Space's spacecraft assembly facility in Bremen, Germany, ESA said.
- ESA is providing the service modules for at least the next two Orion missions — an unpiloted shakedown cruise in lunar orbit scheduled to lift off in November 2018, and the first Orion flight with astronauts on-board in the early 2020s.
- European governments agreed to pay for the service module for the 2018 flight, named EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1), at a meeting of government ministers in December 2012. ESA member states last month committed funding for a second service module for EM-2 (Exploration Mission-2), which will carry up to four astronauts farther than the moon's orbit as soon as 2021.
Figure 35: Orion's service module engine, OMS-E, undergoes vibration testing at NASA/JSC (Johnson Space Center) in Houston (image credit: NASA)
- The service module has 33 engines and thrusters to control the Orion capsule's orientation and adjust its trajectory after launch. The main engine for EM-1 is a refurbished OMS-E (Orbital Maneuvering System-Engine) that flew on 19 space shuttle missions.
- The OMS engines were mounted on pods on each side of the shuttle's vertical tail, used to change the craft's orbit and begin the spaceship's trip back to Earth with a de-orbit burn.
- The ESM (European Service Module) has 33 engines and thrusters to control the Orion capsule's orientation and adjust its trajectory after launch. The main engine for EM-1 is a refurbished Orbital Maneuvering System engine that flew on 19 space shuttle missions (Figure 36).
- The OMS engines were mounted on pods on each side of the Shuttle's vertical tail, used to change the craft's orbit and begin the spaceship's trip back to Earth with a de-orbit burn. - The engines burn hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants, and were each designed for 100 missions and rated for multiple restarts on each flight. Aerojet Rocketdyne built the OMS engines, which provide around 26.6 kN of thrust in vacuum.
- The OMS engine slated to launch on EM-1 flew on the shuttle Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis in its career. Its first launch was on the STS-41G mission in October 1984, and its last shuttle mission was STS-112 in October 2002.
Figure 36: The Shuttle Atlantis touches down at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility runway on Oct. 18, 2002. One of the OMS engines mounted on each side of the tail will fly on Orion's EM-1 mission beyond Earth orbit in late 2018 (image credit: NASA)
- The European-built service module is in the "critical path" for EM-1 to remain on track for its launch readiness window, which runs from September through November of 2018. The service module is due for delivery to NASA/KSC (Kennedy Space Center) in Florida in April 2017 — after engineers in Germany add the OMS engine and propellant tanks to the already-finished primary structure.
- At KSC, ground crews will connect the service module with the Orion crew module, then ship the spacecraft to NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio by the end of 2017 to subject it to the extreme temperatures and vacuum conditions it will encounter in space.
- The craft will return to KSC in early 2018 for final assembly steps, including the spacecraft's fueling and the addition of the Orion launch abort system before the stack is mounted on top of NASA's SLS (Space Launch System) inside the Vehicle Assembly Building for rollout to launch pad 39B.
Figure 37: Artist's rendition of the Orion spacecraft with the European-built service module (image credit: NASA)
• December 7, 2016: ESA and NASA are extending their collaboration in human space exploration following confirmation that Europe will supply a second Service Module to support the first crewed mission (EM-2)of the Orion spacecraft. The mission is set for launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, as early as 2021 and will include up to four astronauts – the first time humans have left low orbit since 1972. Crew size and composition will be determined closer to launch. 43)
• Nov. 21, 2016: The processing activity at NASA/KSC (Kennedy Space Center) in Florida has ramped up in preparation for the agency's launch of the Orion spacecraft atop the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket on its first deep space mission, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1). The Orion CMA (Crew Module Adapter) for EM-1 was lifted for the first and only time, Nov. 11, during its processing flow inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building high bay at KSC. 44)
- The CMA will connect the Orion crew module to the European Space Agency-provided service module. The Orion spacecraft will launch on the SLS rocket on EM-1 scheduled for late 2019.
Figure 38: Image of the CMA uplift on Nov. 11. The CMA is now undergoing secondary structure outfitting (image credit: NASA, Glen Benson)
• Sept. 19, 2016: The Orion heat shield that will protect the Orion crew module during re-entry after the spacecraft's first uncrewed flight atop NASA's Space Launch System rocket in 2018 arrived at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on on August 25. It was transported to the Shuttle Landing Facility, which is managed and operated by Space Florida, aboard NASA's Super Guppy aircraft. 45)
- The shipping container with the heat shield inside was offloaded and transported to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building high bay where technicians uncrated and secured it on a stand to begin the work to prepare it for Orion's next test flight, known as EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1).
- The heat shield was designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the company's facility near Denver. Orion's heat shield will be capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 2750ºC during reentry into Earth atmosphere. The heat shield measures 5 m in diameter, making it the largest of its kind.
Figure 39: Inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians assist as a crane lifts the Orion heat shield for EM-1 away from the base of its shipping container (image credit: NASA, Dimitri Gerondidakis)
• June 27, 2016: NASA and ESA conducted a CDR (Critical Design Review) culminating in a final review board June 16 for Orion's European-built service module (Figure 40). The service module is an essential part of the spacecraft that will power, propel, and cool Orion in deep space as well as provide air and water for crew members. The CDR rounds out the latest in a series of reviews for the three human exploration systems development programs that will enable the journey to Mars. 46)
- The recently completed review focused on the overall service module design while discussing differences between Orion's first deep space mission atop the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket and the mission to follow that will carry crew. No new major issues were identified during the review, and the teams worked together to develop a plan for work going forward in areas such as power, solar array management and propellant usage.
- "The teams at NASA and ESA worked together successfully over the past few weeks to bring design decisions and required products to the CDR board," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "International collaboration is an important part of the effort NASA is leading to pioneer deep space."
- The review was conducted at ESA/ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Center) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands with teams from NASA, ESA, Lockheed Martin and Airbus Defence & Space in Bremen, Germany. Lockheed Martin is NASA's main contractor building Orion, and Airbus is ESA's contractor for the service module.
- The CDR identified April 2017 as the target for the service module delivery to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Teams will begin integrating hardware into the rocket before the service module is delivered, and NASA plans to continue to optimize processing when it arrives at Kennedy. Initial results maintain EM-1 launch date no later than November 2018.
• May 25, 2016: Replicating the thunderous noise of a rocket launch is no easy task, but engineers at NASA Glenn's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio are mimicking the launch environment the Orion spacecraft will experience on a 2018 mission beyond the moon. They recently concluded a series of tests on a structural representation of the Orion service module to help ensure it can withstand the force and pressure of the acoustics environment it will experience as it makes its way from the launch pad to space atop NASA's Space Launch System rocket. 47)
- Orion's service module is a critical piece of the overall spacecraft. Provided by ESA (European Space Agency) and built by Airbus Defence & Space, the 13 ton component will be responsible for propelling, powering and cooling the vehicle, as well as providing air and water for its eventual crew.
- When a powerful rocket launches, it can produce noise of up to 180 decibels, levels so high that it can vibrate and damage spacecraft components if they aren't designed and built to be strong enough to withstand the environment. For comparison, a person standing about 100 m away from a jet taking off would experience approximately 130 decibels of sound pressure, and for every additional 10 decibels, sound intensity increases 10-fold.
- While engineers have designed Orion components to endure a range of harsh environments like launch and missions in space, testing on the ground helps to validate computer modeling predictions. "Orion is undertaking an unprecedented mission, so the acoustics testing we've done is helping us make sure the service module will fare as we expect it to," said Aron Hozman, lead engineer for the acoustics testing campaign.
- Engineers performed numerous evaluations at different decibel levels over the course of several weeks in Plum Brook Station's Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility. The facility is the world's most powerful spacecraft acoustic test chamber. In it, a series of modulators or horns embedded on one of the facility's walls and supporting subsystems such as a gaseous nitrogen generation system and a hydraulic supply system were used to modulate noise and produce a wide range of acoustic spectra.
- The series of testing was done in two configurations – one with "wet" tanks where the service module's propellant tanks were filled with a simulant that modeled the density of Orion fuel, and with them empty to determine if the noise affected the structure differently. The maximum test with fuel simulant lasted approximately three minutes. Engineers also used the testing to help qualify the service module's solar array wing. They placed a microphone inside the test article and determined that the noise in the test chamber matched the expected acoustic environment inside the service module where the wing is housed.
- The service module structural test article will next move to Plum Brook Station's Mechanical Vibration Facility, a powerful spacecraft shaker system that will help assess the component's ability to withstand the tremor that an SLS launch will produce. As these ground tests continue to validate the service module's design, the first flight unit service module for EM-1 is now being built in Europe. This unit, which will be built by the same teams who built the structural test article, recently arrived to Airbus' facility in Bremen, Germany for integration. It is expected to be shipped to the United States in 2017.
• May 19, 2016: Airbus DS has started assembling the ESM (European Service Module), a key element of NASA's next-generation Orion spacecraft that will transport astronauts into deep space for the first time since the end of the Apollo program. Integrating more than 20,000 parts and components in the ESM flight model ranging from electrical equipment to rocket engines, solar arrays, tanks for propellant and life support consumables as well as hundreds of meters of cables and tubes marks a major milestone for the Orion program. After the arrival of the flight model structure from Thales Alenia Space Italy the assembly is being carried out at Airbus Defence and Space's site at Bremen, Germany, where officials from ESA, NASA, Airbus Defence and Space and partners gave an update on the Orion program's progress on May 19. 48)
- The ESM is cylindrical in shape and about four meters in diameter and in height. It features the ATV's (Automated Transfer Vehicle) distinctive four-wing solar array (19 m across unfurled) that generates enough electricity to power two households. Its 8.6 tons of propellant will power one main engine and 32 smaller thrusters. The ESM has a total mass of just over 13 tons. In addition to the main propulsion capability for the Orion spacecraft, the ESM will perform orbital maneuvering and attitude control functions. It also provides the main elements of the life support system such as water and oxygen for the crew while providing power and thermal control while it is docked to the crew module. The unpressurized service module can also be used to carry additional cargo.
• May 11, 2016: The EM-1 has passed a critical series of proof pressure tests which confirm the effectiveness of the welds holding the spacecraft structure together. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the Orion crew module, ran the test at incremental steps over two days to reach the maximum pressure. During each step, the team pressurized the chamber and then evaluated the data to identify changes for the next test parameter. The results revealed the workmanship of the crew module pressure vessel welds and how the welds reacted to the stresses from the pressurization. 49)
• April 29, 2016: The first European hardware to arrive at NASA for Orion is the ESM (European Service Module) structural test article. This test version of the service module has the same mass and configuration as the real thing and will undergo advanced testing at NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio, USA. 50)
Figure 40: Photo of the European Structural Test Article which undergoes testing in NASA's acoustic test facility in Plum Brook, Ohio, USA (image credit: NASA)
• On 29 February 2016, a test model of Orion's solar array was unfolded at NASA's Plum Brook Station test facility in Sandusky, Ohio to check everything works as expected. The solar panels were made by Airbus Defence and Space in the Netherlands for the ESA module that will supply power and life support for up to four astronauts. 51)
- Each wing stretches more than 7 m, folded inside the SLS (Space Launch System's) rocket of NASA that will launch the spacecraft on its first unmanned mission in 2018. Orion sports four wings of three panels with 1242 cells per panel to provide 11.1 kW of power – enough to run two typical European households. The distinctive X-wings are an evolution and improvement of ESA's ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle).
- The test was passed with flying colors as the 260 kg array unfurled into its flight configuration. The stresses of flying to the Moon and beyond – and back again – mean the array is designed to bend up to 60º forward and backward, much like a bird in flight.
Figure 41: Photo of the Orion wing array unfolding test at NASA's Plum Brook Station (image credit: ESA)
• Feb. 2. 2016: NASA's unique Super Guppy aircraft, loaded with the structural backbone for NASA's next Orion crew module, swooped in for a landing at the KSC (Kennedy Space Center) on Feb. 1, 2016 (coming from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans). Orion's arrival at KSC marks a major milestone on the road to starting NASA's ‘Journey to Mars' initiative. 52)
- This Lunar Orion vehicle is destined for blastoff to the Moon in 2018 on NASA's EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1) atop the agency's mammoth SLS (Space Launch System) rocket. EM-1 is a ‘proving ground' mission that will fly an unmanned Orion thousands of kilometers beyond the Moon, further than any human capable vehicle, and back to Earth, over the course of a three-week mission.
Figure 42: The nose of the Super Guppy aircraft opened to reveal cargo hold carrying the Orion crew module pressure vessel after arrival at KSC (image credit: Ken Kremer)
• January 22, 2016: The first European hardware to arrive at NASA for Orion is the European Service Module structural test article (Figure 43). This test version of the service module has the same weight and configuration as the real thing and will undergo advanced testing at NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio, USA. Once mating is complete the Service Module will have a mass of 13,000 kg in total. The Service Module will be placed on a shaker and vibrated to recreate the stress of launch. 53)
Figure 43: In this picture, the European Service Module structural test article is being ‘mated' to the Crew Module Adapter, which connects the service module to the Orion Crew Module (image credit: ESA, NASA)
• January 2016: In a major step towards flight, engineers at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have finished welding together the pressure vessel for the first Lunar Orion crew module that will blastoff in 2018 atop the agency's SLS (Space Launch System) rocket. The 2018 launch of NASA's Orion on an unpiloted flight dubbed Exploration Mission, or EM-1, counts as the first joint flight of SLS and Orion, and the first flight of a human rated spacecraft to deep space since the Apollo Moon landing era ended more than 4 decades ago. 54)
- The friction-stir welding work to assemble the primary structure of NASA's maiden Lunar Orion capsule was just finished last week on Jan. 13. According to NASA, friction-stir welding produces incredibly strong bonds by transforming metals from a solid into a plastic-like state, and then using a rotating pin tool to soften, stir and forge a bond between two metal components to form a uniform welded joint, a vital requirement of next-generation space hardware.
Figure 44: Orion EM-1 pressure vessel was completed Jan. 13, 2016 at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, LA. The pressure vessel is the spacecraft's underlying structure on which all of the spacecraft's systems and subsystems are built and integrated (image credit: NASA)
• Nov. 16, 2015: After the completion of Orion's CDR (Critical Design Review) in October, the spacecraft is one important step closer toward the upcoming EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1, scheduled to take place in 2018. It means that Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor building Orion, can now focus on full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and tests of the spacecraft. 55)
• Nov. 10, 2015: A test version of ESA's service module for NASA's Orion spacecraft arrived at the Cleveland Hopkins airport in Ohio, USA before continuing by road to NASA's Plum Brook Station. 56) 57) 58)
- The module sits directly below Orion's crew capsule and provides propulsion, power, thermal control, and water and air for four astronauts. The solar array spans 19 m and provides enough to power two households. A little over 5 m in diameter and 4 m high, it weighs 13.5 tons. The 8.6 tons of propellant will power one main engine and 32 smaller thrusters.
- Following initial tests in Europe, it will now undergo rigorous vibration tests in NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio to ensure the structure and components can withstand the extreme stresses during launch.
• Nov. 6, 2015: Airbus Defence and Space is preparing to deliver the Orion ESM (European Service Module) structural test model to NASA. The model is an exact copy of the flight model, only without the functionality. It will determine whether the structural and weight specifications have been met, and whether the module lives up to NASA's crew safety requirements. Testing will take place at NASA's Plum Brook Station test center in Ohio, USA. 59)
- The design of the ESM is based on the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle), the European supply craft for the International Space Station. It is a cylindrical module with a diameter of 4.5 m and a total length – main engine excluded – of 2.7 m. It is fitted with four solar array ‘wings' with a span of 18.8 m. Besides propulsion and power, the ESM is also equipped with oxygen tanks to supply the crew.
Figure 45: A look at the propulsion side of the Orion ESM (European Service Module) structural test model (image credit: Airbus Defence and Space SAS 2015)
• Oct. 26, 2015: Lockheed Martin and NASA have completed the majority of Orion's CDR (Critical Design Review) which means the spacecraft's design is mature enough to move into full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test of the vehicle. It also means that the program is on track to complete the spacecraft's development to meet NASA's Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) performance requirements. The complete Orion EM-1 CDR process will conclude after the European Service Module CDR and a presentation to the NASA Agency Program Management Council in the spring 2016. 60) 61)
- Orion's CDR kicked off in August 2015. The review focused on the EM-1 design as well as additional common elements that will be included on the Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) spacecraft. These elements include the structure, pyrotechnics, LAS (Launch Abort System), software, guidance, navigation and control, and many others.
- Although the EM-1 vehicle is designed to accommodate all the necessary elements for human exploration of deep space, systems unique to the EM-2 mission, such as crew displays and the Environmental Control and Life Support System, will be evaluated at a later EM-2 CDR.
- In early 2016, Orion's crew module pressure vessel will be shipped to the Operations and Checkout Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. There it will undergo final assembly, integration and testing in order to prepare for EM-1 when Orion is launched atop NASA's SLS (Space Launch System) for the first time.
• Oct. 22, 2015: NASA completes the CDR (Critical design Review) for SLS (Space Launch System). The CDR examined the first of three configurations planned for the rocket, referred to as SLS Block 1. The Block I configuration will have a minimum 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capability and be powered by twin boosters and four RS-25 engines. The next planned upgrade of SLS, Block 1B, would use a more powerful exploration upper stage for more ambitious missions with a 105-metric-ton (115-ton) lift capacity. Block 2 will add a pair of advanced solid or liquid propellant boosters to provide a 130-metric-ton (143-ton) lift capacity. In each configuration, SLS will continue to use the same core stage and four RS-25 engines. 62)
• Oct. 12, 2015: Aerojet Rocketdyne announced that it passed the CDR (Critical Design Review) for the jettison motor and the crew module RCS (Reaction Control System) on the Orion spacecraft. These two major subsystems that Aerojet Rocketdyne is building for Lockheed Martin and NASA are critical for ensuring astronaut safety and mission success. Astronaut safety is paramount and the jettison motor and the crew module reaction control system will ensure that the crew begins their mission into deep space and lands at the completion without harm. 63)
- The jettison motor is a solid rocket motor that separates the launch abort system from the Orion spacecraft about five seconds after fairing separation, allowing the crew to continue safely on their way into deep space. In addition to its normal operations, the jettison motor serves a double duty if an anomaly occurs. Designed to assist crew escape, the jettison motor is one of three solid rocket motors on the launch abort system that will rapidly pull the capsule away from the stack in the event of an emergency.
- The RCS on the crew module the company is providing for Orion is equally important to crew safety. The crew module RCS provides the only course control authority after separation from the service module. It ensures that the heat shield is properly oriented, the crew module is stable under the parachutes and that the vehicle is in the correct orientation for splashdown.
• NASA is a small step closer to sending astronauts on a journey to Mars. On Sept. 5, 2015, engineers at the agency's MAF (Michoud Assembly Facility) in New Orleans welded together the first two segments of the Orion crew module that will fly atop NASA's SLS (Space Launch System) rocket on a mission beyond the far side of the moon. 64)
Figure 46: At NASA's MAF in New Orleans, engineers welded together on Sept. 5, 2015 two sections of the Orion spacecraft's primary structure that will fly on Exploration Mission-1, the first flight of Orion atop the agency's Space Launch System rocket (image credit: NASA)
The primary structure of Orion's crew module is made of seven large aluminum pieces that must be welded together in detailed fashion (Figure 47). The first weld connects the tunnel to the forward bulkhead, which is at the top of the spacecraft and houses many of Orion's critical systems, such as the parachutes that deploy during reentry. Orion's tunnel, with a docking hatch, will allow crews to move between the crew module and other spacecraft.
"Each of Orion's systems and subsystems is assembled or integrated onto the primary structure, so starting to weld the underlying elements together is a critical first manufacturing step," said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. "The team has done tremendous work to get to this point and to ensure we have a sound building block for the rest of Orion's systems."
Engineers have undertaken a meticulous process to prepare for welding. They have cleaned the segments, coated them with a protective chemical and primed them. They then outfitted each element with strain gages and wiring to monitor the metal during the fabrication process. Prior to beginning work on the pieces destined for space, technicians practiced their process, refined their techniques and ensured proper tooling configurations by welding together a pathfinder, a full-scale version of the current spacecraft design.
NASA's prime contractor for the spacecraft, Lockheed Martin, is doing the production of the crew module at Michoud.
Through collaborations across design and manufacturing, the teams have been able to reduce the number of welds for the crew module by more than half since the first test version of Orion's primary structure was constructed and flown on the EFT-1 (Exploration Flight Test-1) in December 2014. The EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1) structure will include just seven main welds, plus several smaller welds for start and stop holes left by welding tools. Fewer welds will result in a lighter spacecraft.
Figure 47: Seven welds of Orion's pressure vessel. This diagram shows the seven pieces of Orion's primary structure and the order in which they are welded together (image credit: NASA)
The tunnel is the passageway astronauts crawl in and out of when Orion is docked with another vehicle. The forward bulkhead, located at the top of the crew module, must handle extreme loads during re-entry because that is where the parachutes are connected when they deploy. In order to certify the new welding process, the team at Michoud Assembly Facility welded a pathfinder vehicle to verify the design changes and welding changes would perform as expected. 65)
In early 2016, once the pieces that make up the crew module's pressure vessel are welded together, it will be shipped to the Operations and Checkout Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. There it will undergo final assembly, integration and testing in order to prepare for Exploration Mission-1 when Orion is launched atop NASA's SLS (Space Launch System) for the first time. The test flight will send Orion into lunar distant retrograde orbit—a wide orbit around the moon that is farther from Earth than any human-rated spacecraft has ever traveled. The mission will last more than 20 days and will certify the design and safety of Orion and SLS for human-rated exploration missions.
Launch: Orion EM-1 will launch uncrewed on the maiden test flight of NASA's SLS (Space Launch System). Liftoff is expected in mid-2020.The SLS-1/EM-1 test flight with the uncrewed Orion spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL. 66) 67) 68)
The EM-1 mission will last more than three weeks, sending the Orion spacecraft into a high-altitude retrograde orbit around the moon before heading back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
• March 8, 2018: Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) will be the first integrated test of NASA's deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, EM-1 will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond. 69)
- During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown. It will travel 280,000 miles from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about a three-week mission. Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
- "This is a mission that truly will do what hasn't been done and learn what isn't known," said Mike Sarafin, EM-1 mission manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It will blaze a trail that people will follow on the next Orion flight, pushing the edges of the envelope to prepare for that mission."
- Leaving Earth: SLS and Orion will blast off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA's modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The SLS rocket is designed for missions beyond low-Earth orbit carrying crew or cargo to the Moon and beyond, and will produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust during liftoff and ascent to loft a vehicle weighing nearly six million pounds to orbit. Propelled by a pair of five segment boosters and four RS-25 engines, the rocket will reach the period of greatest atmospheric force within ninety seconds. After jettisoning the boosters, service module panels, and launch abort system, the core stage engines will shut down and the core stage will separate from the spacecraft.
- As the spacecraft makes an orbit of Earth, it will deploy its solar arrays and the ICPS (Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage) will give Orion the big push needed to leave Earth's orbit and travel toward the Moon. From there, Orion will separate from the ICPS within about two hours after launch. The ICPS will then deploy a number of small satellites, known as CubeSats, to perform several experiments and technology demonstrations.
- On to the Moon: As Orion continues on its path from Earth orbit to the Moon, it will be propelled by a service module provided by the European Space Agency, which will supply the spacecraft's main propulsion system and power (as well as house air and water for astronauts on future missions). Orion will pass through the Van Allen radiation belts, fly past the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation and above communication satellites in Earth orbit. To talk with mission control in Houston, Orion will switch from NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellites system and communicate through the Deep Space Network. From here, Orion will continue to demonstrate its unique design to navigate, communicate, and operate in a deep space environment.
- The outbound trip to the Moon will take several days, during which time engineers will evaluate the spacecraft's systems and, as needed, correct its trajectory. Orion will fly about 62 miles (100 km) above the surface of the Moon, and then use the Moon's gravitational force to propel Orion into a new deep retrograde, or opposite, orbit about 70,000 km from the Moon.
- The spacecraft will stay in that orbit for approximately six days to collect data and allow mission controllers to assess the performance of the spacecraft. During this period, Orion will travel in a direction around the Moon retrograde from the direction the Moon travels around Earth.
- Return and Reentry: For its return trip to Earth, Orion will do another close flyby that takes the spacecraft within about 60 miles of the Moon's surface, the spacecraft will use another precisely timed engine firing of the European-provided service module in conjunction with the Moon's gravity to accelerate back toward Earth. This maneuver will set the spacecraft on its trajectory back toward Earth to enter our planet's atmosphere traveling at 25,000 mph (11 kilometers per second), producing temperatures of approximately 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) – faster and hotter than Orion experienced during its 2014 flight test.
- After about three weeks and a total distance traveled exceeding 1.3 million miles, the mission will end with a test of Orion's capability to return safely to the Earth as the spacecraft makes a precision landing within eyesight of the recovery ship off the coast of Baja, California. Following splashdown, Orion will remain powered for a period of time as divers from the U.S. Navy and operations teams from NASA's Exploration Ground Systems approach in small boats from the waiting recovery ship. The divers will briefly inspect the spacecraft for hazards and hook up tending and tow lines, and then engineers will tow the capsule into the well-deck of the recovery ship to bring the spacecraft home.
- Future Missions: With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars. The SLS rocket will evolve from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 metric tons to the Moon, to a final configuration that can send at least 45 metric tons. The second flight will take crew on a different trajectory using a powerful exploration upper stage and test Orion's critical systems with humans aboard. Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
- Future exploration missions with crew aboard Orion will dock with a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. NASA and its partners will use the gateway for deep-space operations including missions to and on the Moon with decreasing reliance on the Earth. Using lunar orbit, we will gain the experience necessary to extend human exploration farther into the solar system than ever before.
Figure 48: The Orion EM-1 mission map (image credit: NASA) 70)
SLS (Space Launch System):
The SLS is the new heavy launch system for NASA. The SLS configuration for EM-1 is considered Block 1, the first configuration of the SLS evolution plan. The Shuttle-derived design takes advantage of resources established for the Space Shuttle, including the workforce, tooling, manufacturing processes, supply chain, transportation logistics, launch infrastructure, and LOX/LH2 propellant infrastructure. An overview of the initial SLS Block 1 configuration that will first fly with the Orion in 2018 is shown in Figure 49. The SLS enables many aspects of the NASA core capabilities in addition to human exploration initiatives. These include the reduction in mission duration, increased mass margins, reductions in total spacecraft complexity, and significant increases in payload volume (Ref. 92).
The secondary payload initiative for EM-1 takes advantage of several of these capabilities and enables new opportunities for small spacecraft developers. By utilizing planned unoccupied volume within the upper stage adapter ring, the OSA (Orion Stage Adapter), increased mission science and technology missions can be accommodated.
SLS Block 1 is capable of deploying 70 metric tons of payload into LEO (Low Earth Orbit). The characteristic energy (C3) curve for SLS is provided in Figure 2, illustrating SLS's evolved thrust capabilities.
Figure 49: SLS Block 1 70t Initial Configuration (image credit: NASA)
Figure 50: Welding is complete on the largest piece of the core stage that will provide the fuel for the first flight of NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System, with the Orion spacecraft in 2018. The core stage liquid hydrogen tank has completed welding on the Vertical Assembly Center at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Standing more than 40 m tall and 8.4 m in diameter, the liquid hydrogen tank is the largest cryogenic fuel tank for a rocket in the world. The liquid hydrogen tank and liquid oxygen tank are part of the core stage — the "backbone" of the SLS rocket that will stand at more than 61 m tall. Together, the tanks will hold 733,000 gallons (2775 m3) of propellant and feed the vehicle's four RS-25 engines to produce a total of 2 million pounds of thrust (8896 kN) This is the second major piece of core stage flight hardware to finish full welding on the Vertical Assembly Center. The core stage flight engine section completed welding in April 2016. More than 1.7 miles of welds have been completed for core stage hardware at Michoud. Traveling to deep space requires a large rocket that can carry huge payloads, and SLS will have the payload capacity needed to carry crew and cargo for future exploration missions, including NASA's Journey to Mars. 71)
Figure 51: David Osborne, an Aerie Aerospace LLC machinist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, takes measurements prior to the start of precision machining of the Orion stage adapter for NASA's new rocket, the SLS (Space Launch System). The adapter will connect the Orion spacecraft to the ICPS (Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage) for the first flight of SLS with Orion in late 2018. The ICPS is the liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will give Orion the big, in-space push needed to fly beyond the moon before it returns to Earth. The adapter also will carry 13 CubeSats that will perform science and technology investigations that will help pave the way for future human exploration in deep space, including the Journey to Mars (image credit: NASA, Sept. 29, 2016)
Figure 52: SLS Net-Payload System Mass-Earth Escape (image credit: NASA)
Figure 53: Artist rendering of the various configurations of NASA's SLS together with a quick comparison with the Saturn V (1967-1972), image credit: NASA
Status of SLS development:
• January 31, 2019: NASA and its industry partners have completed manufacture and checkout of 10 motor segments that will power two of the largest solid propellant boosters ever built. The solid rocket fuel will help produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust (35.585 MN) to send NASA's Space Launch System rocket on its first integrated flight with the Orion spacecraft. Technicians at Northrop Grumman in Promontory, Utah, in coordination with SLS program leads at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, finalized the fabrication of all 10 motor segments and fitted them with key flight instrumentation. 72)
- They'll be shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, joined with booster forward and aft assemblies, and readied to power the SLS Exploration Mission-1 test flight when it launches from Kennedy. The uncrewed test launch will pave the way for a new era of groundbreaking science and exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit, carrying crew and cargo to the Moon and on to Mars. Marshall manages the Space Launch System for NASA.
Figure 54: NASA completes booster motor segments for first Space Launch System flight (image credit: NASA)
• January 15, 2019: The largest piece of structural test hardware for America's new deep space rocket, the SLS (Space Launch System), was loaded into Test Stand 4693 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama on 14 January 2019. The liquid hydrogen tank is part of the rocket's core stage that is more than 200 feet tall (61 m) with a diameter of 27.6 feet (8.4 m), and stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle's RS-25 engines. The liquid hydrogen tank test article is structurally identical to the flight version of the tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (20.4 K). Dozens of hydraulic cylinders in the 215-foot-tall test stand will push and pull the tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight. 73)
Figure 55: Photo of the SLS liquid hydrogen tank test in the test stand at NASA/MSFC in Huntsville, Alabama (image credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)
• December 14, 2018: Technicians at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, moved the largest piece of structural test hardware for America's new deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, from the factory to the dock where it was loaded onto NASA's barge Pegasus on 14 December 2018. 74)
- The liquid hydrogen tank test article will make its way up the river to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where dozens of hydraulic cylinders in Test Stand 4693 will push and pull on the giant tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight. The test hardware is structurally identical to the flight version of the liquid hydrogen tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (20.4 K).
Figure 56: Photo of the SLS liquid hydrogen tank test article transport at the Michoud Assembly Facility (image credit: NASA/Steven Seipel)
• December 13, 2018: Northrop Grumman Corporation along with NASA and Lockheed Martin successfully performed a ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA's Orion spacecraft LAS (Launch Abort System) at Northrop Grumman's facility in Promontory, Utah (Figure 57). The abort motor is a major part of the LAS, which provides an enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts. The completion of this milestone brings Orion one step closer to its first flight atop NASA's Space Launch System and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. 75)
- "Our astronauts' safety is our top priority," said Steve Sara, director, launch abort motor program, Northrop Grumman. "We never expect the launch abort motor to be used, but just like an ejection seat in a fighter pilot's aircraft, if they need it, it needs to work every time."
- The mission for Orion's LAS is to safely jettison the spacecraft and crew out of harm's way in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial launch ascent. Today's abort motor test, Qualification Motor-2, was the culmination of a series of component tests conducted over the past few years in preparation for qualification. Data from the test will confirm the motor can activate within milliseconds and will perform as designed under cold temperatures.
- The abort motor, which stands over 17 feet tall and spans three feet in diameter, has a manifold with four exhaust nozzles. With its nozzles pointing skyward, it fired for five seconds; the exhaust plume flames reached approximately 100 feet in height. The high-impulse motor burns three times faster than a typical motor of this size, delivering the thrust needed to pull the crew module to safety. The motor achieved approximately 350,000 pounds of thrust (1556 kN) in one eighth of a second, as expected. More analysis will be performed in the coming weeks, but all initial results indicate a successful test.
- Northrop Grumman's next major abort motor milestones include the Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test (AA-2) set to take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in 2019. Previous large-scale tests of the launch abort motor included a development motor test in 2008, a pad abort test of the complete launch abort system in 2010 and the Qualification Motor-1 static test in 2017.
- For the AA-2 flight test, in addition to the launch abort motor Northrop Grumman will also provide the ATB (Abort Test Booster ), which will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft and LAS to on a preplanned trajectory to obtain data to be used for LAS performance assessment. The ATB uses the same rocket motor as the first stage of a Minotaur IV rocket.
- Northrop Grumman is responsible for the launch abort motor through a contract to Lockheed Martin, Orion's prime contractor. The Orion LAS program is managed out of NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. Northrop Grumman produces the abort motor at its Magna, Utah facility and the attitude control motor at its Elkton, Maryland facility. The company also manufactures the composite case for the abort motor at its facility in Clearfield, Utah.
Figure 57: Today's test firing of the Northrop Grumman-manufactured launch abort motor in Promontory, Utah, confirmed the motor can activate within milliseconds and will perform as designed under cold temperatures (image credit: Northrop Grumman, NASA)
• August 2018: Upper Stage and Adapters: At the forward section of the rocket, just below the Orion crew vehicle, is the OSA (Orion Stage Adapter), which holds the secondary payload accommodations. For EM-1, the OSA is complete and was delivered to EGS in February 2018. Made of a lightweight aluminum alloy, the OSA measures 5.4 m in diameter by 1.5 m high. A diaphragm just below the mounting brackets prevents launch gases from entering the Orion spacecraft. 76)
- Sitting just below the OSA, the ICPS (Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage), a modified Delta Cryogenic Second Stage manufactured by ULA in Decatur, Ala. through a contract with Boeing, supplies in-space propulsion for the Block 1 vehicle. The ICPS will provide the TLI burn to send Orion toward the moon during the EM-1 mission. After entering its disposal trajectory with the OSA attached, the ICPS will release the first seven CubeSats (Figure 71).
Figure 58: Photo of the ICPS, which will provide in-space propulsion for the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion, is complete (image credit: NASA)
• August 14, 2018: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made his first official visit to NASA's rocket factory, the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Aug. 13, for tours and briefings on progress building the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. 77)
Figure 59: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks with members of the media in front of the massive liquid hydrogen tank, which comprises almost two-thirds of the core stage and holds 537,000 gallons (2032 cm3) of liquid hydrogen cooled to minus 423º Fahrenheit (-252ºC). Innovative processes are part of core stage manufacturing including joining the thickest pieces of aluminum ever with self-reacting friction stir welding. The liquid oxygen tank and liquid hydrogen tanks have the thickest joints ever made with self-reacting friction stir welding (image credit: NASA, Jude Guidry)
- Bridenstine, joined by Jody Singer, acting director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Keith Hefner, director of Michoud, toured the massive facility where manufacturing and assembly of the largest and most complex parts of SLS and Orion are underway. SLS will send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and critical hardware on bold exploration missions to the Moon and beyond.
- The tour highlighted the SLS core stage which, flanked by two solid rocket boosters, will provide the thrust to propel the vehicle to deep space. The administrator had the opportunity to view SLS hardware just as engineers are putting the finishing touches on the core stage parts by testing avionics, installing special equipment inside the structures and applying thermal protection systems.
- Bridenstine also viewed Orion's latest milestone, the welding completion of the primary structure of the crew module, or pressure vessel, by engineers at Michoud. The pressure vessel is the primary structure that holds the pressurized atmosphere astronauts will breathe to allow them to work in the harsh environment of deep space. This pressure vessel will carry the first astronauts to missions beyond the Moon on Exploration Mission-2.
- "This is a critical piece of America's architecture for our return to the Moon and ultimately, it's a strategic capability for the United States of America," said Bridenstine. "I cannot overstate how important this capability is to America and how all of the team members who work here are contributing to a capability where countries around the world are seeking to partner with the United States as we return to the surface of the Moon and into orbit around the Moon."
• July 31, 2018: The first major piece of core stage hardware for NASA's SLS (Space Launch System) rocket has been assembled and is ready to be joined with other hardware for Exploration Mission-1. The forward skirt will connect the upper part of the rocket to the core stage and house many of the flight computers, or avionics. 78)
Figure 60: The first major piece of core stage hardware for NASA's Space Launch System rocket has been assembled and is ready to be joined with other hardware for Exploration Mission-1. The forward skirt will connect the upper part of the rocket to the core stage and house many of the flight computers, or avionics (image credit: NASA, Eric Bordelon)
- The backbone of the world's most powerful rocket, the 212-foot-tall (64.6 m) core stage, will contain the SLS rocket's four RS-25 rocket engines, propellant tanks, flight computers and much more. Though the smallest part of the core stage, the forward skirt will serve two critical roles. It will connect the upper part of the rocket to the core stage and house many of the flight computers, or avionics.
- "Completion of the core stage forward skirt is a major step in NASA's progress to the launch pad," said Deborah Bagdigian, lead manager for the forward skirt at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "We're putting into practice the steps and processes needed to assemble the largest rocket stage ever built. With the forward skirt, we are improving and refining how we'll conduct final assembly of the rest of the rocket."
- On July 24, the forward skirt assembly was wrapped up with the installation of all its parts. As part of forward skirt testing, the flight computers came to life for the first time as NASA engineers tested critical avionic systems that will control the rocket's flight. The construction, assembly and avionics testing occurred at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
- Located throughout the core stage, the avionics are the rocket's "brains," controlling navigation and communication during launch and flight. It is critical that each of the avionics units is installed correctly, work as expected and communicate with each other and other components, including the Orion spacecraft and ground support systems.
- "It was amazing to see the computers come to life for the first time" said Lisa Espy, lead test engineer for SLS core stage avionics. "These are the computers that will control the rocket as it soars off the pad for Exploration Mission-1."
- The forward skirt test series was the first of many that will verify the rocket's avionics will work as expected during launch. The tests show the forward skirt was built correctly, and that all components and wiring on the inside have been put together and connected properly and are sending data over the lines as expected.
- The avionic computers ran "built-in tests" that Espy compares to the internal diagnostic tests performed by an automobile when first started. All of the health and data status reports came back as expected. The tests were a success and did not return any error codes. Such error codes would be similar to a check engine light on a car.
- The successful tests give the team the confidence needed to move forward with avionics installations in the core stage intertank and engine section. With more hardware and more interfaces, the installation in the intertank will be more complex, and the complexity will ramp up even more as the team moves to the engine section, introducing hydraulics and other hardware needed for the rocket's engines.
- Engineers will perform standalone tests on each component as they are completed. Once the forward and aft joins are integrated, they will perform a final integrated function test, testing all the core stage's avionics together.
- The fully integrated core stage and its four RS-25 engines will then be fired up during a final test before launch. At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the core stage will be stacked with the upper part of the rocket, including Orion, and joined to the rocket's twin solid rocket boosters, in preparation for EM-1.
• July 10, 2018: Aerojet Rocketdyne recently passed a key milestone in preparation for the Ascent Abort Test (AA-2) next year with the successful casting of the Jettison Motor for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft's LAS (Launch Abort System). AA-2 is a full-stress test of NASA's Orion LAS, which includes the Jettison Motor built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The Orion Jettison Motor is used to separate the LAS from Orion as it makes its way to space and is the only motor on the escape system to activate in all mission scenarios. 79)
Figure 61: The Jettison Motor built by Aerojet Rocketdyne for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft's LAS (Launch Abort System) that will be tested during the Ascent Abort Test (AA-2) next year (image credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
- In the unlikely event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent, the LAS would activate within milliseconds to whisk Orion and its astronaut crew to safety. Once Orion reaches a safe distance from the rocket, the Orion Jettison Motor would ignite to separate the LAS structure from the spacecraft, which could then deploy its parachutes for a safe landing.
- During the AA-2 test, a solid rocket booster will launch a fully functional LAS and an Orion test vehicle to an altitude of 31,000 feet (~9.5 km) at Mach 1.3 (over 1,000 mph) to test out the functionality of the LAS system prior to flying humans. The Jettison Motor will fire last in the test sequence.
- "Every time our engineers work on products supporting the Orion spacecraft or the Space Launch System rocket, they have astronaut safety front and center of mind," said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake. "The AA-2 test is a critical step to testing the Launch Abort System and our Jettison Motor and ensuring our astronauts always return home safely to their families."
- The Orion Jettison Motor, which generates 40,000 pounds of thrust (177.928 kN), uses a propellant that is poured into a motor casing, where it cures over a period of several days to form a solid, stable cast that burns in a precisely controlled fashion.
- The AA-2 Jettison Motor casting took place at Aerojet Rocketdyne's motor production facility in Sacramento, California. The completed motor will now be shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center for integration with the LAS by Lockheed Martin.
• April 3, 2018: NASA's Super Guppy aircraft prepares to depart the U.S. Army's Redstone Airfield in Huntsville, Alabama, April 3, with flight hardware for NASA's Space Launch System – the agency's new, deep-space rocket that will enable astronauts to begin their journey to explore destinations far into the solar system. The Orion stage adapter, the top of the rocket that connects SLS to Orion is loaded into the Guppy, which will deliver it to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for flight preparations. On Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft, the adapter will carry 13 CubeSats as secondary payloads. SLS will send Orion beyond the Moon, about 280,000 miles from Earth. This is farther from Earth than any spacecraft built for humans has ever traveled. 80)
Figure 62: SLS flight hardware is being transported in a Super Guppy from Huntsville AL to KSC (Kennedy Space Center) in Florida (image credit: NASA/MSFC, Fred Deaton)
• December 22, 2017: The booster avionics system for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket completed system-level qualification testing in October 2017. Engineers simulated the booster avionics operations in a systems integration lab at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where all the avionics boxes and electronics were tested. The tests verified the fidelity of the system. Two five-segment rocket boosters, developed by Orbital ATK, will provide 80 percent of the thrust for the first two minutes of flight. The booster avionics, receiving commands from the SLS flight computers in the core stage, provide 80 percent of the control authority for the rocket during the first two minutes of flight. Key interactions confirmed during qualification testing included the ability to initiate booster ignition, control the booster during flight, terminate flight, and triggering core stage separation. 81)
• December 15, 2017: When NASA's Orion spacecraft hurtles toward Earth's surface during its return from deep-space missions, the capsule's system of 11 parachutes will assemble itself in the air and slow the spacecraft from 300 mph to a relatively gentle 20 mph for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean in the span of about 10 minutes. As the astronauts inside descend toward the water on future missions, their lives will be hanging by a series of threads that have been thoroughly ruggedized, tested and validated to ensure the parachute-assisted end of Orion missions are a success. 82)
- Through a series of tests in the Arizona desert, the engineers refining Orion's parachutes have made the road to certifying them for flights with astronauts look easy, including a successful qualification test Dec. 13 that evaluated a failure case in which only two of the systems three orange and white main parachutes deploy after several other parachutes in the system used to slow and stabilize Orion endure high aerodynamic stresses. But behind the scenes, engineers are working hard to understand and perfect the system that must be able to work across a broad range of potential environmental conditions and bring the crew home.
- While Orion's parachutes may look similar to those used during the Apollo-era to the untrained eye, engineers can't simply take that parachute system and scale it up to accommodate Orion's much larger size. Through testing and analysis, technicians have developed Orion's parachutes to be lighter, better understood and more capable than Apollo's. NASA has also been able to adjust the system as elements of the spacecraft, such as attachment points, have matured.
- "Through our testing, we've addressed some known failures that can happen in complex parachute systems to make the system more reliable," said Koki Machin, chief engineer for the system. "We built upon the strong foundation laid by Apollo engineers and figured out how to manage the stresses on the system during deployment more efficiently, decrease the mass of the parachutes by using high tech fabric materials rather than metal cables for the risers that attach the parachute to the spacecraft, and improve how we pack the parachute into Orion so they deploy more reliably."
- Orion's parachute system is also incredibly complex. About 10 miles of Kevlar lines attach the spacecraft to the outer rim of nearly 12,000 square feet (~1110 m2) of parachute canopy material – over four times the average square footage of a house – and must not get tangled during deployment. In addition to the fabric parachutes themselves, there are cannon-like mortars that fire to release different parachutes. Embedded in several parachutes are fuses set to burn at specific times that ignite charges to push blades through bullet proof materials at precise moments, slowly unfurling the parachutes to continue the sequential phases of the deployment sequence. All of these elements must be developed to be reliable for the various angles, wind conditions and speeds in which Orion could land.
- With the analysis capabilities that exist today and the historical data available, engineers have determined that approximately 20-25 tests, rather than the more than 100 performed during the Apollo era, will give them enough opportunities to find areas of weakness in Orion's parachute system and fix them. After the three remaining final tests next year, the system will be qualified for missions with astronauts.
- "There are things we can model with computers and those we can't. We have to verify the latter through repeated system tests by dropping a test article out of a military aircraft from miles in altitude and pushing the parachutes to their various limits," said CJ Johnson, project manager for the parachute system. "Lots of subtle changes can affect parachute performance and the testing we do helps us account for the broad range of possible environments the parachutes will have to operate in."
- Orion parachute engineers have also provided data and insight from the tests to NASA's Commercial Crew Program partners. NASA has matured computer modeling of how the system works in various scenarios and helped partner companies understand certain elements of parachute systems, such as seams and joints, for example. In some cases, NASA's work has provided enough information for the partners to reduce the need for some developmental parachute tests.
- "Orion's parachute system is an extremely lightweight, delicate collection of pieces that absolutely must act together simultaneously or it will fail," said Machin. "It alone, among all the equipment on the crew module, must assemble itself in mid-air at a variety of possible velocities and orientations."
Figure 63: NASA is testing Orion's parachutes to qualify the system for missions with astronauts (image credits: U.S. Army)
• November 8, 2017: NASA is providing an update on the first integrated launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft after completing a comprehensive review of the launch schedule. This uncrewed mission, known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is a critical flight test for the agency's human deep space exploration goals. EM-1 lays the foundation for the first crewed flight of SLS and Orion, as well as a regular cadence of missions thereafter near the Moon and beyond. 83)
- The review follows an earlier assessment where NASA evaluated the cost, risk and technical factors of adding crew to the mission, but ultimately affirmed the original plan to fly EM-1 uncrewed. NASA initiated this review as a result of the crew study and challenges related to building the core stage of the world's most powerful rocket for the first time, issues with manufacturing and supplying Orion's first European service module, and tornado damage at the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
- "While the review of the possible manufacturing and production schedule risks indicate a launch date of June 2020, the agency is managing to December 2019," said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. "Since several of the key risks identified have not been actually realized, we are able to put in place mitigation strategies for those risks to protect the December 2019 date."
- The majority of work on NASA's new deep space exploration systems is on track. The agency is using lessons learned from first time builds to drive efficiencies into overall production and operations planning. To address schedule risks identified in the review, NASA established new production performance milestones for the SLS core stage to increase confidence for future hardware builds. NASA and its contractors are supporting ESA's (European Space Agency) efforts to optimize build plans for schedule flexibility if sub-contractor deliveries for the service module are late.
- NASA's ability to meet its agency baseline commitments to EM-1 cost, which includes SLS and ground systems, currently remains within original targets. The costs for EM-1 up to a possible June 2020 launch date remain within the 15 percent limit for SLS and are slightly above for ground systems. NASA's cost commitment for Orion is through Exploration Mission-2. With NASA's multi-mission approach to deep space exploration, the agency has hardware in production for the first and second missions, and is gearing up for the third flight. When teams complete hardware for one flight, they're moving on to the next.
- As part of the review, NASA now plans to accelerate a test of Orion's launch abort system ahead of EM-1, and is targeting April 2019. Known as Ascent-Abort 2, the test will validate the launch abort system's ability to get crew to safety if needed during ascent. Moving up the test date ahead of EM-1 will reduce risk for the first flight with crew, which remains on track for 2023.
• November 8, 2017: Lift off at the end of the countdown is just the first phase in a launch. Two minutes in, booster separation occurs – a critical stage in flight, with little room for error. Engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, are doing their part to support NASA's new deep space rocket, the SLS (Space Launch System). The rocket will be capable of sending the Orion crew vehicle and other large cargos on bold new missions beyond Earth orbit. To understand the aerodynamic forces as booster separation motors fire and push the solid rocket boosters away from the rocket's core, Langley engineers are testing a 35-inch SLS model in Block 1B 105-metric ton evolved configuration in the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel using a distinct pink paint. The pressure-sensitive paint works by reacting with oxygen to fluoresce at differing intensities, which is captured by cameras in the wind tunnel. Researchers use that data to determine the airflow over the model and which areas are seeing the highest pressure. 84)
Figure 64: Wind tunnel test of the SLS booster separation model in Block 1B (image credit: NASA/LaRC)
• October 19, 2017: NASA engineers conducted a full-duration, 500-second test of RS-25 flight engine E2063 on the A-1 Test Stand at SSC (Stennis Space Center) on Oct. 19, 2017. Once certified, the engine is scheduled to help power NASA's new Space Launch System rocket on its EM-2 (Exploration Mission-2). The test was part of Founders Day Open House activities at Stennis. 85)
- Engine E2063 is scheduled for use on NASA's second mission of SLS and Orion, known as EM-2. The first integrated flight test of SLS and Orion, EM-1 (Exploration Mission-1), will be an uncrewed final test of the rocket and its systems. The EM-2 flight will be the first to carry astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft, marking the return of humans to deep space for the first time in more than 40 years.
• September 22, 2017: Following a series of issues over the last year with the Core Stage for the first flight of the Space Launch System rocket, the launch dates for both the EM-1 and EM-2 flights are beginning to align, with EM-1 now targeting 'No Earlier Than' 15 December 2019 and EM-2 following on 1 June 2022. Additionally, the EM-3 flight has gained its first notional mission outline, detailing a flight to Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit to deploy the Hab (Habitat) module for the new Deep Space Gateway. 86)
- The first flight of any new rocket is bound to encounter design and initial production delays. And NASA's SLS (Space Launch System ) rocket is been no stranger to those sort of anticipated effects. - Following a misalignment in the installation of the main welding machine at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), welding for the certification elements for the new SLS core stage Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) and Liquid Oxygen (LOX) tanks picked up.
- After the initial LH2 qualification tanks were welded, a change to the welding machine's pin was made – a change that resulted in segment welds on the EM-1 LH2 flight tank being too brittle to meet flight specification requirements.
- This pin change and subsequent issue led to the understanding that the LH2 flight tank for EM-1 was no longer flight worthy and thus could not be used for EM-1.
- A plan was then put in place to restore the welding machine's previously used pin – the one that welded all the Core Stage test articles that have thus far passed all qualification and acceptance testing – and use the upcoming weld for the EM-2 flight LH2 tank as the new LH2 tank for the EM-1 flight.
- However, less than a week after the EM-1 LH2 flight tank issue became known, a worker at MAF damaged the aft dome section of the qualification article for the Core Stage LOX tank.
- In all, these production issues quickly made the Core Stage's timeline for EM-1's then-2018 launch date impossible.
- Earlier this year, NASA acknowledged this and announced that EM-1 was slipping to sometime in 2019 – though that was already understood to be "Q4 2019."