Tag Archives: Orion

Congress Just Gave NASA A Massive Budget For Next Year

Good news, everyone. NASAs latest budget has just been put forward by Congress and they have allocated the agency $750 million more than they requested. This means the agencys full budget for 2016 is $19.3 billion, which incredibly in an age of cutting costs is almost $1.3 billion more than last year.

The budget increases funding to several key programs at NASA, including its Commercial Crew program, its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the Orion spacecraft. “We are going back into space with Americans on American rockets, and we are going to Mars,” Senator Bill Nelson said yesterday.

Perhaps most interestingly, $175 million of the budget has been set aside for the Europa Multi-Flyby Mission, a spacecraft that will be sent to Europa in the early 2020s, and the budget dictates that NASA must include a lander for the surface of this icy moon of Jupiter. “This mission shall include an orbiter with a lander that will include competitively selected instruments and that funds shall be used to finalize the mission design concept,” it reads, reported Ars Technica.

A landerhas been touted for the upcoming Europa mission before, but NASA has not been keen to firmly commit to anything yet, as there are many unknowns about undertaking such a landing. It remains to be seen how they’ll go forward with this request.

Nonetheless, the large amount of funding essentially allows NASA to meet most of the other goals it has set itself. Crucially, they were given the $1.243 billion of funding for the Commercial Crew program that they have been pushing so hard for. Administrator Charlie Bolden recently told IFLScience that he counted this getting SpaceX and Boeings manned spacecraft up and running as one of the key goals of his time in office.

Wish you were here? Congress has told NASA they must senda lander to the surface of Europa. NASA

Elsewhere, planetary science has received a boost in the form of $1.631 billion $270 million above what the President requested. According to The Planetary Society, this “allows both the MER Opportunity rover and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to continue science operations.” The upcoming Mars 2020 rover, meanwhile, gets a $22 million boost.

The huge SLS, which Congress seems very keen to overfund, has been given $2 billion, $640 million above the $1.36 billion requested by the President. The SLS, if you arent aware, will eventually be used to take humans to Mars with the Orion spacecraft, which has been given an increase to $1.91 billion.

Of the areas to miss out on their requested levels of funding, one is the Earth Science Division, which received$1.921 billion less than the Presidents request but $149 million more than last year. Another is the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), which gets $686 million $39 million less than requested, but $90 million more than last year.

The budget still needs to pass a vote in Congress this week, which seems likely at the moment, although a controversial surveillance bill was snuck in along with it. If it gets bythis test, the White House will almost certainly sign it into law.

Onto Europa, then.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/congress-just-gave-nasa-massive-budget-next-year

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Prepares For First Launch In 2018

The race to Mars is on, and NASAs mission to the Red Planet has just begun another important phase.

The backbone of the new Orioncrew module was unloaded this week at the Kennedy Space Center. Itwill now be outfitted ahead ofits inaugural unmanned flight in late 2018 to the Moon and back.

Orion is the spacecraft being developed by NASA to take humans to an asteroid and,ultimately, toMars. And not onlywill it take humanity further than ever before, but it is alsothe most advanced and safest space vehicle ever created.

The crew module delivered to NASA is a pressure vessel, which will be the core of the manned quarters. It was constructed at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleansand flown to the center on NASA’s fish-shaped Super Guppy plane.

NASA Super Guppy aircraft being prepped for flight. NASA

The pressure vessel is now in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, where engineers from NASA andLockheed Martin will install all the systems and subsystems necessary to fly Orion around the Moon. The system includes heat shields, thermal protection, propulsion, computers, plumbing, electrical, life support, parachutes, and much more.

The 2018 launch, called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), will take seven days to circle the Moon and return to Earth. It will be the first flight of a human-rated craft in deep spacesince the Apollo missions over four decades ago, although on this test flight it will have no humans on board. Manned flights are expected to begin in the early 2020s.

The EM-1 pressure vessel is about 3 meters (10 feet) in height and 5 meters (16 feet) in diameter, and weighs over 1,200 kilograms (2,700 pounds). The capsule will be launched atop the Space Launch System (SLS), the expendable launch vehicle that will be used by NASA in the future to bring cargo and crew into orbit.

After EM-1 is completed, a crewed mission (EM-2) will explore an asteroid in near-Earth orbit. These tests will be fundamental in learning to overcome the challenges in the eventualjourney to Mars.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/orion-being-prepped-begin-testing

NASA’s Mars-Bound Space Launch System Rocket Passes Critical Design Review

Another small step has been taken on the path to getting humans to Mars by the 2030s. NASAs huge upcoming Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has passed its critical design review (CDR), the first human-rated NASA rocket to do so for 40 years since the Space Transportation System (STS), otherwise known as the Space Shuttle. Its a pretty big deal.

The review was completed back in July, assessing various components of the rocket such as its engines and boosters. The results of the review have now been briefed to the Agency Program Management Council, the final step in the CDR process, which means all systems are go to start building the rocket ahead of its first launch in 2018 at the earliest.

There have been challenges, and there will be more ahead, but this review gives us confidence that we are on the right track for the first flight of SLS and using it to extend permanent human presence into deep space, said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of NASAs Exploration Systems Development Division, in a statement.

This was the last of four reviews of the rocket; the next step now is to actually build it by 2017, when it will be vigorously assessed ahead of its launch the following year. This first launch will be an unmanned test flight; the first manned flight, using an Orion spacecraft, will take place in the early 2020s. Ultimately, SLS will be used to launch key components for a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Eventually, there will be two versions of the SLS. The initial smaller Block 1 configuration will be 98 meters (322 feet) tall, produce 4million kilograms (8.8million pounds) of thrust at lift off and weigh 2.6million kilograms (5.75million pounds). This will enable it to take 70 metric tons (77 tons)of cargo into space, more than twice the capability of any rocket currently in operation.

TheBlock 2 configuration, though, will be not only taller at 111 meters (365 feet), but will also use advanced boosters that will enable it to launch 130 metric tons (143 tons), a similar capabilityto that of the Saturn V rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the Moon, the most powerful rocket in history.

This [review] is a major step in the design and readiness of SLS, said John Honeycutt, SLS program manager, in thestatement. Our team has worked extremely hard, and we are moving forward with building this rocket. We are qualifying hardware, building structural test articles, and making real progress.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasas-mars-bound-space-launch-system-rocket-passes-critical-design-review

Watch NASA’s “All About That Space” Parody Music Video

A new music video released by NASA shows just how “all about that space, ‘bout that space, space travel” the agency is. 

The video features Pathways interns from NASA’s Johnson Space Center dancing and lip-synching to a parody of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” The purpose of the parody is to generate interest in Orion’s first flight, according to the video description, as well as inform the public about ongoing work at the Johnson Space Center. 

The Orion spacecraft was launched into space on December 5th for its first deep-space test flight. It returned to Earth the same day, just 4.5 hours after its maiden flight. For a video of the splashdown taken by recovery crews aboard the USS Anchorage, check out a video here.



This is not the first time NASA has launched a parody of a pop song on Youtube. For past efforts, check out “We’re NASA and We Know It,” “NASA Johnson Style,” and “NASA Wallops Harlem Shake.”

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-s-all-about-space-parody-music-video

New NASA Spaceship Set for 2014 Test Launch


The pieces are coming together for NASA’s newest spaceship Orion, with its first unmanned launch test scheduled for September 2014.

The Orion space capsule is designed to carry humans farther into the solar system than they’ve ever been by taking trips to the moon, asteroids and Mars.

It will be the first new spaceship built by NASA since the space shuttle was developed in the 1970s. The space agency is planning to outsource travel to low-Earth orbit, including the International Space Station, to the private space sector, allowing NASA itself to focus on traveling beyond.

“I think having a test flight in ’14 is huge — people can see it right there,” Orion program manager Mark Geyer told SPACE.com in September. “It’s a really important goal.”

Orion was originally conceived as a next-generation spacecraft, called the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, under NASA’s now-defunct Constellation program. When that program was cancelled by the Obama administration, the Orion design was carried forward as the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

The engineering team behind the capsule has weathered political ups and downs, but say they are glad to be approaching flight time for the craft.

“It’s hard to put in 80 hours a week and then have somebody go, ‘I don’t want to do that anymore,'” Geyer said. “We kind of went through that two years ago, but fortunately we came out on the other side.”

Orion first test flight will be called the Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT 1), and will include a test of more than half the systems that will appear in the ultimate finished Orion. These include its heat shield, which is a totally novel design made of a special composite material and an ablative coating deigned to burn off as the capsule re-enters Earth’s searing atmosphere for the trip home.

EFT 1 will also test the capsule’s primary structure design and put its avionics and computer systems through their paces.

However, for this first flight test Orion will ride to space aboard a Delta 4 heavy rocket — a proven flight vehicle from ULA (United launch Alliance) that won’t be its ultimate booster. Eventually, Orion is planned to launch toward the moon and beyond on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), a new heavy-lift rocket still under development. The first flight test for Orion and SLS together, called Exploration Mission 1, is slated for 2017.

Orion and SLS are set to carry humans onboard for the first time in 2021.

On the surface, Orion looks like a modernized Apollo capsule. Both vehicles are cone-shaped and launch vertically atop heavy-lift rockets. However, the similarities are only skin deep.

Where Apollo could carry three astronauts to the moon, Orion is bigger and can take four. The 1960s-era Apollo capsule featured computer technology inferior to that of a smart phone, while Orion is controlled by state-of-the-art technology. Its heat shield is composed of entirely new materials, and many other features are wholly novel.

“It’s kind of like an automobile in 1905 had four tires and a steering wheel, and they still do now,” Geyer said. “But none of the stuff inside is the same.”

Between now and EFT 1, the NASA teams are working with the capsule’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, to finish construction of Orion’s systems and assemble them together. The primary body for that test vehicle is finished, while the heat shield still needs about six months more. Its avionics computersare undergoing testing now. Eventually, the whole vehicle will be put together in Florida at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

“I think we have a great design and we have a great plan to fly it,” Geyer said. “It’s time to do it, to actually put it to use and put it in the missions that are going to let us discover new things.”

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/30/nasa-orion-test-launch/

Watch The Test Flight Launch of the Deep-Space Orion Spacecraft

When NASA is ready to send humans to Mars, it will do so using the Orion spacecraft, launched via a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. An unmanned test flight is scheduled for Thursday, December 4 at 7:05 am EST from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Orion spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, will complete a 4.5 hour-long test flight at an altitude of 5,800 kilometers (3,600 miles), which is approximately 15 times the distance to the International Space Station. The heat shield will be tested, and the cabin will be filled with a suite of sensors to measure conditions inside the spacecraft. Orion will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of 32,190 km/h (20,000 mph), before deploying 11 parachutes and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. This is faster than any spacecraft has re-entered since the Apollo missions.

In addition to the technical aspects of the test flight, the spacecraft will also carry items meant to generate public interest in the Orion mission, as well as interest in space travel and STEM in general. Items include a microchip with over 1 million names submitted to NASA, poems, music recordings, and more. Orion will also be carrying iconic props from Sesame Street, in order to inspire children. These items include Ernie’s rubber ducky, Super Grover’s cape, Slimey the Worm, and Cookie Monster’s chocolate chip cookie.

Packing up the Sesame Street items that will fly on Orion. Photo credit: NASA

As of the time of this writing (Monday morning), there is a 60% chance that the launch will be a ‘Go’ during the 2 hour and 39 minute window. Though there is no precipitation currently expected on Thursday, that could change as the week goes on. Additionally, the launch could be scrubbed if wind speeds get too high. Because the spacecraft is going to be retrieved by the US Navy, NASA needs to ensure that conditions are favorable over in the Pacific as well.

Manned missions on Orion will take place after 2020. It will complete a few manned missions to asteroids before heading for its premier target: Mars. A total of four astronauts will be seated in the spacecraft during these missions.

The launch will be preceded by two press conferences: one on Tuesday at 1 pm EST, and another on Wednesday at 11 am EST. Coverage for the 7:05 am launch on Thursday will begin at 4:30 am EST. All of the events can be viewed on NASA TV or you can watch right here:


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream


Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/watch-test-flight-launch-deep-space-orion-spacecraft