Among the Orion Program's milestones this summer have been the crew recovery drills and Space Launch System fabrication efforts on the road to Exploration Mission-1.The deep space exploration program's roadmap is similar to that which the Apollo Program followed to the Moon landings,with EM-1 being an uncrewed test,or full dress rehearsal,if you will,for the first crewed Orion mission,EM-2.Based on its decades of space flight experience,NASA feels this stepwise approach is the surest way to succeed in our international quest to reach beyond the Earth and the Moon.*
From 10-14 July 2017,an interagency team of NASA,the US Navy,Coast Guard and Air Force staged a number of crew module recovery scenarios in the Gulf of Mexico off the Galveston,Texas coast.This was to test egress from the Orion crew module,evaluating plans and hardware for getting the crew out of Orion as safely and efficiently as possible under all conditions.That means taking into account crew health;weather;and condition of recovery personnel and equipment in the area in real-time.Can the crew get out safely under adverse conditions-say if the capsule lands off course and recovery personnel aren't able to reach them right away,or if water intrudes into the capsule before help arrives?*
The astronauts and engineering test subjects wore modified NASA Advanced Crew Escape suits to keep the drills as close to mission scenarios as possible.The ACE suits,which are worn on launch and re-entry,are still in development.*
Yasmin Ali,Launch and Recovery Systems manager for Orion,noted that:
We're making important headway this summer with all of our landing and recovery systems testing.*
At the same time,the new SLS rocket fabrication and testing has been going on apace at several different NASA and contractor facilities.For instance,the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage is currently in the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center,Florida.It will be in the high bay of the facility for cleaning and maintenance until it is moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking beneath the Orion capsule and integration with other components.
Five-segment powerhouse motors for the Solid Rocket Boosters are in production by subcontractor Orbital-ATK at its Utah facility.The motors will be shipped to KSC,then integrated with forward and aft booster structures,and then the SLS core stage.Welding for the Boeing liquid oxygen tank is also underway at the NASA Michoud Assemby Facility,New Orleans.Indeed,four core stage tanks are being built simultaneously.
On 25 July,a test of the RS-25 rocket engine was successfully conducted at the NASA Stennis Space Center,Mississippi.Four of the modified Space Shuttle engines are used to power the SLS.*
EM-1,which will venture a record 40,000 miles beyond the Moon,is slated for a 2019 launch,with the crewed EM-2 to follow in the 2022-23 time frame.Besides testing the integrated Orion system,EM-1 will be a research mission,deploying 13 CubeSats,small satellites investigating such topics as lunar science and astrobiology.*
Boeing (BA),Orbital ATK Inc (OA)