July 29, 2014

Information for this post came from the NASA web site.  All of the information relative to the program and the flight hardware is derived from same.


In my opinion, our country made a huge mistake in abdicating our hard-won position relative to manned space flight.  Due to the very near-sighted government types in Washington D.C., we were perfectly willing to let the Russians carry our crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS).  According to – “Russia will charge the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) $71 million to transport just one American astronaut to the International Space Station aboard its Soyuz spacecraft in 2016”.  That’s more than triple the $22 million per seat charged in 2006, according to a July 8 audit report by NASA’s inspector general.   NASA, at this time, has little choice but to pay Russia’s inflated ticket prices.   In August of 2011, the U.S. space agency retired its 30-year-old space shuttle program and now, NASA has no way of getting American astronauts to the space station. The Russian Soyuz is “the only vehicle capable of transporting crew to the ISS”.  During the second half of 2011, the price per seat jumped to $43 million.  The price of purchased seats for launches in 2014 and 2015 are $55.6 million and $60 million, respectively, the audit report noted.  Again, 2016, $71 million for a “ride” to the ISS.   Could we not see that coming? Are they so blind in Washington that the obvious is overlooked? (Maybe we were trying to improve our golf game or possibly attending a fund raiser.) With issues in Crimea and the Ukraine, we may be denied altogether.

Well, NASA does have one program, the ORION that promises to get manned-space efforts back on track.  ORION will push the envelope and investigate manned-space flight well beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).


The spacecraft will launch on Exploration Flight Test-(EFT-1), an un-crewed mission planned for this year, 2014. This test will see Orion travel farther into space than any human spacecraft has gone in more than 40 years. EFT-1 data will influence design decisions, validate existing computer models and innovative new approaches to space systems development, as well as reduce overall mission risks and costs. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for EFT-1 flight.  The EFT-1 will take Orion to an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface, more than 15 times farther than the International Space Station’s orbital position.  By flying Orion out to those distances, NASA will be able to see how hardware and software perform in and return from deep space journeys.  A graphic depiction of EFT-1 may be seen with the graphic below.  As you can see, the launch vehicle will be the DELTA IV Heavy Rocket.



The Orion flight test vehicle is comprised of five primary elements which will be operated and evaluated during the test flight:

  • The Launch Abort System (LAS) – Propels the Orion Crew Module to safety in an emergency during launch or ascent
  • The Orion Crew Module (CM) – Houses and transports NASA’s astronauts during spaceflight missions
  • The Service Module (SM) – Contains Orion’s propulsion, power and life-support systems
  • The Spacecraft Adaptor and Fairings – Connects Orion to the launch vehicle
  • The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle to Stage Adaptor (MSA) – Connects the entire vehicle structure to the kick stage of the rocket

The JPEGs below will indicate the basic configuration of the system and the five (5) modules comprising the “complete package”.




In the very first un-manned test mission, the following targets and goals will be explored:

  • Programmatic Risk Reduction – Critical flight data collected from EFT-1 will validate Orion’s ability to withstand re-entry speeds greater than 20,000 miles per hour and safely return the astronauts to Earth.  Reentry at these speeds has not been attempted before.  The ablative shields will be given a remarkable test during reentry.  Other systems will be evaluated relative to reducing possible risks.
  • Technical Risk Reduction – Valuable data about key systems functions and capabilities such as kick stage processing on the launch pad, vehicle fueling and stacking, and crew module recovery will ensure these systems are designed and built correctly.
  • Demonstrates Efficiencies – Gives NASA the chance to continue to refine its production and coordination processes, aligning with the agency’s commitment to build the world’s most cutting-edge spacecraft in the most cost-efficient manner.  We sometimes look at the entirety of the assembly and fail to realize the tremendous number of individual components needing to network and perform together.  This includes the redundant systems certainly required for a complex mission such as this.
  • Enhances and Sustains Industry Partnerships – Orion’s design teams will gain important experience and training to ensure the industry is prepared for a launch of Orion in 2017 aboard the SLS.  John Doan said: “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”  NASA-ORION is the very same way.  The teams will be evaluated as well as the “hardware” to make sure continuous success is obtainable and everyone is on board relative to work assignment and job duties.
  • Skill Sustainment – Focusing on mission flight-test objectives, helps to reduce or eliminate risks to crew, and refines Orion core-systems development.  This is a big objective.  Everyone comes home—and not in a body bag.  The crew must remain safe at all time during takeoff, the mission and reentry.


The next few years will be exciting years for NASA and ORION will definitely get us back into space.  Manned missions will once again be on the agenda.  Hopefully, time off will be no detriment to success and mission-critical critical components will meet the demands of NASA engineers and scientists.  I welcome your comments.



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