NASA study to examine crewed SLS/Orion mission in 2019
WASHINGTON — A NASA study now underway to examine the prospects of flying a crew on the first Space Launch System launch will constrain its evaluation to missions that can be flown by the end of 2019, agency officials said Feb. 24.
In a media teleconference organized by NASA on only a few hours’ notice, officials said the study announced Feb. 15 regarding flying a crew on the Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) flight of the SLS and Orion will examine the pros and cons of such a proposal, but not make a formal recommendation.
“I want to stress to you this is a feasibility study, so when we get done with this we won’t come out with a hard recommendation, one way or the other,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said of the EM-1 study. “We’re going to talk about essentially the advantages and disadvantages of adding crew to EM-1.”
The study will look at what needs to be done to both SLS and Orion to allow a crew to fly on the EM-1 mission, using the spacecraft and launch vehicle already under development for a mission currently not designed to carry a crew. NASA chose that approach over the alternative of accelerating EM-2, which is currently planned to be the first crewed mission, launching in 2021.
“We kind of ruled out trying to accelerate EM-2 and focused our attention on the potential to adding crew to EM-1,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development. That, he said, was because of modifications to ground systems needed to accommodate the larger Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) that will be used on SLS missions starting with EM-2.
A “brief assessment” about one month ago on the feasibility of adding crew to EM-1 concluded it was in the “realm of possibility,” Hill said, which the new study will examine in greater detail.
The study, which Gerstenmaier said was directed by the team of Trump administration appointees assigned to NASA in conjunction with agency acting administrator Robert Lightfoot, does not have any specific schedule or budget restrictions on adding a crew to EM-1. However, he said he’s limiting scenarios to those where the mission, currently scheduled to launch in late 2018 without a crew, could launch with a crew no later than the end of 2019.
“I didn’t want to go much beyond 2019,” he said. “I felt that if we went much beyond 2019, then we might as well fly EM-2 and actually do the plan we’re on.” That constraint, he added, also forces a relatively rapid decision about whether or not to fly a crew on the mission.
The concept being examined for a crewed EM-1 mission would be to fly a two-person crew on Orion on a trajectory similar to what’s already being considered for EM-2. After spending a day in Earth orbit after launch, Orion would then fly a free-return trajectory around the moon, returning eight to nine days after launch.
That mission can be flown with the less powerful Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) upper stage that will be used on EM-1, rather than the EUS planned for EM-2 and later missions. “We don’t need the full capability of the EUS,” Gerstenmaier said.
However, the ICPS, derived from the Delta 4 upper stage, would need modifications that would allow it to fly a crewed Orion. “One of the tasks we’ve asked the team to go look at is what changes we need to make to this upper stage to do the mission we would like it to go do,” he said. That would include possibly adding micrometeoroid debris protection to the stage.
Gerstenmaier said the study will also examine the increased risk of flying a crew on EM-1. “We need to go look at what do we really gain by putting crew on this flight. Does this really advance significantly our overall ability to get to a capability to take humans, routinely as it can be, to the vicinity of the moon and operate safely?” he said. “We’ll actively trade this risk against the benefits.”
Gerstenmaier said preliminary results from the study should be ready in about a month. He added he believes the results will fit into budget discussions with the White House and Congress as it prepares a fiscal year 2018 budget request for NASA.
“We know it’s going to take a significant amount of money, and money that will be required fairly quickly to implement what we need to do,” said Hill of any plan to add crew to EM-1.
Both Gerstenmaier and Hill had no current preference whether or not to fly a crew on EM-1, saying they will let the study guide their thinking on the idea. They noted they expected benefits to the program regardless of the final decision whether or not to fly astronauts on EM-1.
“Even we don’t decide to go do this, we will now go back and we’ll look and say, ‘Hey, some of the things we found in this study we should probably implement on EM-1 anyway because it’s going to make a more robust program,’” said Gerstenmaier.
“If we can fly the EM-2 profile mission on EM-1,” said Hill, “that opens up EM-2 to do more.”
Guardsmen to Test Space Capsule Recovery Systems
GABRESKI AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y., Feb. 24, 2017 — Forty-five members of the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing are heading to Hawaii, Feb. 27, to participate in a joint NASA and Defense Department mission to evaluate recovery techniques and gear that will be used to recover NASA's Orion spacecraft, the next generation of American space vehicle.
Navy divers and other personnel in a Zodiac boat secure a harness around a test version of the Orion crew module during Underway Recovery Test 5 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, Oct. 28, 2016. Members of the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing will participate in a mission in Hawaii designed to test space capsule recovery techniques and equipment, although they will not work with a capsule simulator like this one. Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans. NASA photo
The team of 45 airmen is made up of pararescuemen; combat rescue officers; survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists; and other support airmen assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing's 103rd Rescue Squadron based here.
Pararescuemen are trained to rescue downed aviators behind enemy lines and from land and water environments. Each pararescue airman undergoes two years of training that includes extensive medical training as well as training in parachute jumping, scuba diving and survival skills.
The pararescuemen are experienced in dropping fully stocked rescue boats to recover personnel.
The New York Air National Guardsmen will work with experts from NASA, the Air Force and the Department of Defense Human Spaceflight Support Office in developing techniques for air-dropping gear needed to recover the crew from an Orion screw module and fit the floating spacecraft with special equipment.
The New York airmen will conduct airdrops and practice helping astronauts out of the spacecraft, providing medical assistance if necessary. The jumps will help NASA and the military test a number of systems and procedures for future launches.
While the 106th airmen will be testing recovery equipment, they will not be working with an actual or simulated Orion capsule.
This is not the first time the New York Air National Guard has been involved in a spacecraft recovery mission.
The 106th Rescue Wing provided a rescue support package at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, which is located adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center, for 109 of the Space Shuttle missions. The mission of the National Guardsmen was to rescue astronauts who were forced to abandon their spacecraft during the launch sequence.
"We are pleased to be partnering once again with NASA and the Department of Defense on manned space travel. This exercise is one of many steps the 106th will take to ensure the successful recovery of our nation's astronauts should the need arise. This will further demonstrate the versatility and tremendous capability the Airmen of the 106th possess," said Air Force Col. Michael Bank, the commander of the 106th Rescue Wing.
"The personnel of the 106th Rescue Wing are professionals who have proven themselves in both combat and here at home, "said Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony German, the adjutant general of New York. "We're pleased that they can lend their expertise as NASA plans for the continued exploration of space."
To the Moon and Beyond
Orion is designed to take Americans back into deep space -- defined as the moon and beyond.
The spacecraft resembles a larger version of the Apollo space capsule which took men to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Like the Apollo command module, the Orion spacecraft is designed to 'splash down" in the ocean instead of landing on a runway like the Space Shuttles, which flew 135 times between 1981 and 2011.
Unlike the Apollo capsules, the Orion crew module is designed to be reusable and will house two to six astronauts instead of three.
An unmanned Orion flew in 2014. The next launch of the spacecraft is due in September 2018. That three-week long mission to the moon and beyond was originally to be unmanned by NASA has announced they are studying whether or not a crewed mission can be conducted.
The deployment of the 106th personnel is part of the Sentry Aloha series of air operations exercises hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard each year.
NASA's objectives for the mission are to:
-- Test the best way to mark the spacecraft's location in the water;
-- Test configurations for airdropping recovery equipment;
-- Practice the inflation of a "front porch" which would be used by astronauts exiting the spacecraft; test the stabilization collar which will be placed on the Orion capsule before recovery; and
-- Test storage capacity for equipment on land.
Quelle: U.S. Department of Defense
Orion Spacecraft Progress Continues With Installation of Module to Test Propulsion Systems
On Feb. 22, engineers successfully installed ESA’s European Service Module Propulsion Qualification Module (PQM) at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico that was delivered by Airbus – ESA’s prime contractor for the Service Module. The module will be equipped with a total of 21 engines to support NASA’s Orion spacecraft: one U.S. Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engine, eight auxiliary thrusters and 12 smaller thrusters produced by Airbus Safran Launchers in Germany. The all-steel PQM structure is used to test the propulsion systems on Orion, including “hot firing” of the OMS engine and thrusters.
Orion will travel more than 40,000 miles beyond the moon to test the spacecraft that will carry humans farther into the solar system than ever before. NASA will use the proving ground of space near the moon to establish the deep-space mission operations needed to for long-duration missions. These missions will incrementally decrease our reliance on the Earth for in-space operations and enable future missions on the journey to Mars.
NASA to Test Orion Space Capsule Parachute
The NASA spacecraft that could one day help ferry humans to Mars is scheduled to undergo a parachute test tomorrow (March 8).
The Orion spacecraft can carry humans on long trips into deep space, but once it returns to Earth, it needs a little help touching down. Like the Apollo spacecraft, Orion relies on a parachute system to lower it down through Earth's atmosphere, and safely return astronauts to the ground.
The test is scheduled to take place at 7:30 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m. EST/1430 GMT) at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. A model of Orion will be dropped from a C-17 aircraft flying at an altitude of 25,000 feet, according to a statement from the agency. NASA is currently investigating the possibility of flying two astronauts on a test flight of the Orion spacecraft as early as 2019.
Tomorrow's parachute test will simulate what would happen if an abort sequence took place during Orion’s launch. If something goes wrong with NASA's Space Launch Systems (SLS) rocket that Orion is riding on, NASA officials may decide to abort the flight, meaning the spacecraft would be ejected from its seat atop the rocket. In such an event, the parachutes would deploy and drop the spacecraft safely back to Earth. During an abort sequence, the spacecraft will be traveling at the relatively slow speed of about 130 mph [210 km/h], rather than speeds of about 310 mph [500 km/h] during re-entry after reaching space, according to NASA. The drop will last for about four minutes total; the last one to two minutes will take place under fully deployed parachutes, according to a NASA representative.
Orion's parachute system consists of 11 parachutes in total: three forward bay cover parachutes (deployed first), two drogue parachutes (deployed second, at about 25,000 feet), and three pilot parachutes (deployed at about 9,500 feet) that subsequently deploy three main parachutes. The parachute system can slow down the space capsule to just 20 mph [32 km/h] before touchdown, according to NASA. During tomorrow's test, the Orion team will focus on "deployment of Orion's two drogue parachutes at low speeds, and deployment of its three main parachutes in preparation for landing."
This will be Orion's second airdrop parachute test in a series of eight qualifying drop tests that will replicate various scenarios in which Orion's parachute system would need to be deployed, according to the statement.
Orion’s parachutes tested under launch abort conditions
A model of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, in development to loft astronaut crews into deep space, was dropped from a U.S. Air Force cargo plane over Arizona on Wednesday in the latest in a series of tests to verify the capsule’s parachutes are up to the job of safely landing with humans on-board.
The instrumented test module, shaped like the real Orion capsule with a foam shell, was deployed from the cargo bay of the C-17 transport plane at an altitude of 25,000 feet — about 7,600 meters — Wednesday morning over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.
Two drogue parachutes unfurled to steady the descending capsule, then three 116-foot-diameter (35-meter) orange and white main parachutes inflated to slow down for landing. The descent profile mimicked the conditions an Orion spacecraft would see in the event of an abort during launch, beginning at a relatively slow speed of 130 mph (209 kilometers per hour) instead of the 310 mph (499 kilometers per hour) at which the parachutes would deploy at the end of a normal mission.
Engineers were expected to analyze the performance of the two drogue parachutes at low speeds, and the inflation of the three main parachutes, which were suspended 265 feet (80 meters) above the capsule before touchdown in the desert in southwest Arizona.
The test was the second of eight drops designed to qualify the parachute system for human spaceflight. Instead of landing in the desert, Orion capsules returning from space or a launch abort will splash down at sea.
The Orion spacecraft has performed one space mission to date — an unpiloted test flight in Earth orbit in December 2014 — and the next mission is scheduled for no earlier than late 2018 on a trip into lunar orbit and back, also without astronauts.
Following a request from the Trump administration, NASA is studying whether to add a two-person crew to the next Orion mission, which will lift off on the first flight of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, for a round-trip voyage around the moon. A decision to fly astronauts on the next Orion flight, named Exploration Mission-1, would delay the launch past next year to complete development and testing of the capsule’s abort and life support systems, and add to the program’s cost, officials said last month.
The on this page show the capsule’s drop from the C-17, its descent under parachutes, and the recovery team swarming around the engineering test craft after landing.
NASA and its Orion contractor, Lockheed Martin, plan to reuse the test parachutes flown Wednesday. The capsule will also be refurbished, have new foam added, and reused on four of the remaining six drop tests. A dart-shaped mass simulator will be dropped on the other two qualification tests in the coming months.
The foam damage seen in the images is expected. The outer foam shell is “sacrificial” and designed to protect the capsule’s primary structure and avionics, according to Jared Daum, a hardware and parachute engineer working on Orion’s Capsule Parachute Assembly System.
None of the 11 parachutes used on a real Orion mission will be reused, Daum said.
Engineers will review video and data recorded during Wednesday’s drop test as they prepare for the next in the qualification series. Technicians will also inspect the parachutes and capsule for tears and dings.
“We’re one step closer,” Daum told reporters at the landing site. “We’ve got six more in our qualification series — still a lot of work to do.”
More images of the drop test are posted below, including views of astronauts Stan Love and Victor Glover observing the test, assisting in the recovery and discussing the event with news media.