Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Of Pressure and Risk:NASA Considers the Trump Proposal to Speed Up the Orion Program

A NASA official,Dr.William Gerstenmaier,Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate,has spoken to the media via teleconference about the White House request that NASA consider making Exploration Mission-1 of the Orion Program,currently slated to be an unmanned mission in 2018,to be the first crewed mission as well as a test mission for the integrated Orion spacecraft and new Space Launch System rocket,in order to speed the development process up and preserve American leadership in space exploration:
We don't need the full capability of the Exploration Upper Stage to do this revised mission EM-1.What changes do we need to make?We think we can still protect the crew.We didn't do a test of the cargo flights to International Space Station.We might add micrometeorite protection for the high Earth orbit.The mission would be in 2019.We're going to do an altitude abort test to make sure it works.
Does this really advance our ability to get to the Moon?It will be a risks analysis.We can notionally pull the altitude abort test forward to early in 2019,ahead of revised EM-1.
We recognise this is an increased risk,and we have to decide whether it's worth it with astronauts included in the discussion.What do I really gain from putting a crew on board?When you look at STS-1,the first Space Shuttle mission,which also added crew to a test flight,it's not as big a step as what we did with Shuttle technology.*
From my perspective,I don't see this as pressure.It's better if I don't have a preconceived notion.They gave us freedom to delay EM-1 and extra funding.I think it's great if we have a chance to look at this.We make some changes to give us a better system overall,even if we don't add crew to EM-1.It's going to take a significant amount of money-and pretty quickly-to do what we have to do.We will still have a pretty exciting mission without a crew on EM-1;but a very successful Exploration Flight Test-1 helps give us confidence in adding new things to EM-1.We hit 85 of 87 flight tests successfully on EFT-1,except for the crew uprighting at splashdown.We were looking at this on our own to see what we could do.We added crew seats and dummies and radiation testing.To make this faster,the carbon dioxide removal has been tested on ISS.The waste management system will be going to ISS.*
I don't consider this a ton of extra work for us.I've picked team members for this evaluation not directly associated with Orion so the Orion team could stay focused on EM-1/EM-2.We don't have a specific schedule about getting information.If we go beyond 2019,we might as well go fly EM-2 instead.In the next month or so,we hope to have some of our preliminary findings briefed within the agency.We want to have a pretty polished format in about a month,Dr.Bill Gerstenmaier explained to the media.*
Priniciple contractors for the Orion Program include Lockheed Martin (LMT);Boeing (BA);United Launch Alliance (LMT/BA partnership);and Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJRD).

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