Orion spaceship set for new tests in Colorado

Aug 12, 2011 By DAN ELLIOTT , Associated Press
Engineers attach a collar to the escape vehicle on the Orion spacecraft at the Lockheed Martin facility in Denver on Friday, Aug. 12, 2011. They will use it to move the assembled craft to the testing chamber at left where it will be submitted to vibration testing. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

(AP) -- A spaceship that could carry the next wave of astronauts to an asteroid or beyond is being prepared for a new round of tests at a Lockheed Martin facility near Denver.

Engineers have attached a launch-abort system to the nose of the capsule and will subject the combined spacecraft to a series of experiments to see if it can withstand the rigors of blastoff, Lockheed Martin said Friday.

The launch-abort system, essentially a rocket attached to the nose of the capsule, could lift the capsule off its booster rocket and carry it to safety if a problem developed before or during launch.

Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, Md., is building the capsule, called the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, under a $7.5 billion NASA contract issued in 2006.

The capsule was originally part of President George W. Bush's $100 billion program to return astronauts to the moon, called Constellation. President Barack Obama canceled the program last year, saying the U.S. would concentrate on developing new rocket technology instead.

Obama then revived the Orion portion of the program amid criticism that his plan lacked details and put U.S. space leadership at risk.

Orion doesn't yet have a destination. NASA has said it could service the space station in low Earth orbit or take four astronauts on more distant missions of up to 21 days. Lockheed Martin officials have said Orion could explore the far side of the moon, land humans on asteroids or take them to one of the moons of Mars, where they could control robotic instruments on the surface.

In the next round of tests, the capsule and launch-abort system will be subjected to sound vibrations at a Lockheed Martin facility in Waterton Canyon south of Denver.

The 55-foot-tall assembly will be lifted by a crane into a tall, elevator shaft-like chamber. Inside, more than a dozen horns powered by compressed nitrogen will create a thunderous low-pitch noise at 150 decibels. That will trigger vibrations like the ones generated by a launch or deployment of the abort system.

"It sounds like a freight train and a tornado all at once," Lockheed Martin's Paul Sannes.

Instruments on the capsule and abort system will tell engineers how well they hold up.

The abort system was successfully tested in May 2010 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. An Orion mock-up was rocketed about a mile into the air at speeds of about 450 mph in just 2.5 seconds. The capsule then deployed parachutes and floated to the ground.

It landed about a mile north of the launch site.

After the vibration tests are finished, the spacecraft will be taken to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., for landing tests. It would land in the ocean.

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Techno1
1 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2011
Orion doesn't yet have a destination. NASA has said it could service the space station in low Earth orbit or take four astronauts on more distant missions of up to 21 days. Lockheed Martin officials have said Orion could explore the far side of the moon, land humans on asteroids or take them to one of the moons of Mars, where they could control robotic instruments on the surface


I don't see how that can be possible.

There is no publicly declared rocket engine under developement that would be capable of even a 1 way trip to Mars in 21 days, nevermind a round trip plus stoppage time to actually do anything worth sending humans...

It would take Deadalus, NERVA, or a Nuclear Pulse Engine just to make it 1 way in 21 days.

So either somebody is a liar, or else there is something HUGE in the workings at NASA and JPL...
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2011
I don't see how that can be possible.


21 day limit applies only to Orion capsule itself, mission to Mars would utilize many more supporting modules.
Techno1
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2011
21 day limit applies only to Orion capsule itself, mission to Mars would utilize many more supporting modules.


If you're referring to the concept of a spun space ship and supporting power supply and hydroponics, etc, I've seen such proposals.

Unfortunately, I think the designers are/were a bit short-sighted, as I was quickly able to double the crew, cargo, and landers capacity simply by replacing the counter-weight with a second crew module and all of it's associated components.

I don't know what happens to people when they get a government job, but it's like their brain went out the window.
eachus
5 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2011
The Orion capsule is not a spaceship. A spaceship takes you from the vicinity of one planet or major moon to another. A lander or orbiter takes you to and from (or from and to) the planet or moon's surface and orbit.

So the Orion capsule could be the landing system of a spaceship that traveled from Earth to Mars and back. Unfortunately, it is not up to a return from the surface of Mars, although it could handle a landing and return from either of Mars' two moons.
Techno1
not rated yet Aug 13, 2011
Eachus:

It's not going to happen unless there's an economic incentive.

The people will absolutely have a revolution if the government tries to spend the amount of money that would be allegedly needed to fund a manned mission to the Martian moons.

We're talking about a trillion dollars to start. Just flat out spend a trillion just to send 4 people to a space rock, and maybe bring back some soil samples, some loose rocks, and a few core samples and bring it back to earth...

An un-manned lander robot could do this for a fraction of the cost, but even that would be the most expensive single NASA mission in my lifetime so far...
macsglen
5 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2011
@Techno1:
If we pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we could afford as many manned Mars missions as we wanted.
Watch me not holding my breath for _that_ to happen . . .
LKD
not rated yet Aug 16, 2011
If we pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we could afford as many manned Mars missions as we wanted. Watch me not holding my breath for _that_ to happen . . .


I am not sure you understand how expensive it would be to travel to Mars. If those wars were ended, it would take 20 years of saving before you could fly there. And that's assuming that we could figure out a way for the astronauts to survive the return to Earth's gravity.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Aug 16, 2011
I am not sure you understand how expensive it would be to travel to Mars. If those wars were ended, it would take 20 years of saving before you could fly there.


Why such a high cost?
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Aug 16, 2011
And that's assuming that we could figure out a way for the astronauts to survive the return to Earth's gravity.


Rotational gravity is one option. Also, return after year and a half in weightlessness can be quite easily survived by humans, as is already proven. Mars mission need not be much longer.
LKD
not rated yet Aug 17, 2011
Why such a high cost?


You need to send at least 5 rockets to accomplish that mission. Each would be 100 billion or more.

1 Rocket to get the astronauts there.
1-2 Rockets for supplies.
3 rockets to get a rocket to Mars that has a full tank of fuel to return them to Earth.

That's of course just the rockets and propellant. And not including where they will live, how they will live and what they'll do there. It's easily a 2 trillion dollar bill to accomplish this.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Aug 17, 2011
You need to send at least 5 rockets to accomplish that mission. Each would be 100 billion or more.


Again, why such a high cost for the 5 rockets? Most of the mass needed for such mission will be cheap propellant.

Prepositioning quite a lot of mass on Martian surface and the manned spacecraft itself will be the most expensive parts of the mission, but even then, I cannot imagine why it should cost trillions.
LKD
not rated yet Aug 19, 2011
Again, why such a high cost for the 5 rockets? Most of the mass needed for such mission will be cheap propellant.


This has to break from the earth's gravity well with a several ton payload. Additionally you have to build all the equipment, test all the machines, develop and devise landers. You have to design and test everything from scratch. That's just exceptionally expensive if you want to assure everything works upon arrival on Mars.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Aug 19, 2011
This has to break from the earth's gravity well with a several ton payload.


Thats not so expensive at all.

Additionally you have to build all the equipment, test all the machines, develop and devise landers. You have to design and test everything from scratch. That's just exceptionally expensive if you want to assure everything works upon arrival on Mars.


Expensive it is, but I doubt it would cost trillions. Few hundreds of billions for the whole mission is my estimate, even less if the trend of spaceflight privatisation continues.
LKD
not rated yet Aug 19, 2011
Expensive it is, but I doubt it would cost trillions. Few hundreds of billions for the whole mission is my estimate, even less if the trend of spaceflight privatisation continues.


I understand your point, but feel I need to disagree. NASA has not had a very good track record being fiscally responsible. but know I would love to be proven wrong. And would truly enjoy a humble sandwich with a healthy pride topping. :D