FAQ Follow On:Twitter Google+ Facebook Tumblr subscribe by RSS or Email

NASA's New Orion Spacecraft and Space Launch System

|

Since the end of the Space Shuttle program, NASA technicians have been developing a new Space Launch System (SLS), along with a new manned spacecraft named Orion, designed to once again lift astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, and return them safely home. Years of development and testing are leading up to the first planned (unmanned) launch of Orion in December, sending it 3,600 miles into space atop a Delta 4 Heavy booster. The complete system is scheduled for a an unmanned lunar-orbit test in 2017. Long-term, Orion and the SLS will serve as both transport and a home to astronauts during future long-duration missions to an asteroid, Mars and other destinations throughout our solar system. [35 photos]

Use j/k keys or ←/→ to navigate  Choose:
Three 300-pound main parachutes gently lower a mockup Orion capsule to the ground during a test at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, on December 20, 2012. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is NASA's next manned spacecraft, currently in development, with an unmanned orbital test flight scheduled for December 2014. (NASA)
Three 300-pound main parachutes gently lower a mockup Orion capsule to the ground during a test at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, on December 20, 2012. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is NASA's next manned spacecraft, currently in development, with an unmanned orbital test flight scheduled for December 2014. (NASA)
A test-firing of the Orion launch abort system. The launch abort system is designed to protect the crew onboard Orion by pulling the craft to safety in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the initial phase of ascent. (NASA) #
Wind Tunnel Testing for the new Space Launch System (SLS), September 20, 2013 Environmental factors, like wind gusts, can factor into an aircraft's performance. The SLS, NASA's new heavy-lift launch vehicle, is no exception when it comes to Mother Nature. NASA engineers and contractors recently completed liftoff transition testing of a 67.5-inch model of the SLS in a 14-by-22-foot subsonic wind tunnel at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Instead of learning how environmental factors affect the SLS only during flight, engineers have started at the beginning to improve understanding of how the environment also affects the rocket while it sits on the pad, ready for liftoff. (David C. Bowman/NASA Langley) #
The 70-metric-ton configuration of the SLS rocket, designed to carry the Orion spacecraft, is tested in the Trisonic Wind Tunnel at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. This view uses special cameras and a deflection of light directed through the windows in the tunnel to show the shadows of airflow as it changes angles at high speeds, helping visualize the various intense pressures of atmosphere on the model, on August 23, 2012. (NASA/MSFC) #
NASA astronauts Cady Coleman and Ricky Arnold step into the Orion crew module hatch during a series of spacesuit check tests conducted at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on June 13, 2013. (Reuters/NASA) #
Engineers install J-2X engine E10002 in the A-1 test stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center, on May 14, 2013. The installation is in preparation for a new series of tests, where the engine will be gimbaled, or pivoted, during test firings. Gimbal tests are an important part of the design process. When this upper stage engine is used in space, it will need to be able to move freely to steer NASA's Space Launch System, or SLS -- an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth's orbit. Once this series of tests is complete, the engine will be removed, and preparations will be made to begin testing the RS-25 engine on the A-1 stand in 2014. RS-25 engines from the Space shuttle inventory will power the core stage of SLS, while the J-2X engine will power the upper stage of the evolved launch vehicle. (NASA/SSC) #
Scale Models of the SLS Boosters and Core Stage Engines. These 2-percent scale models of the SLS boosters and core stage engines are ignited for a 100 millisecond, hot-fire test. The test was used to validate the design of the models. (NASA/MSFC) #
Testing NASA's base model for the agency's future Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The module took flight from a large swing, nearing 50 mph (80.5 kph), before splashing down in a pool at NASA Langley's Landing and Impact Research Facility, on August 2, 2011. (NASA) #
Testing NASA's base model for the agency's future Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The module took flight from a large swing, nearing 50 mph (80.5 kph), before splashing down in a pool at NASA Langley's Landing and Impact Research Facility, on August 2, 2011. (NASA) #
The five-segment first stage of the Ares-1 rocket, is test fired at ATK Space Systems, Thursday, September 10, 2009. The motor is NASA's next generation transportation system designed for the Orion program. (AP Photo/Colin Braley) #
An astronaut prepares to install a handrail on a mockup of the Orion crew exploration vehicle in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near the Johnson Space Center, on September 10, 2010. A two-person crew installed and uninstalled handrails to evaluate existing hardware for use in contingency spacewalk scenarios on future exploration missions. (NASA) #
The aerodynamics team at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia tested a model of the 70-metric-ton Space Launch System. The model was tested in Langley's Transonic Dynamics Tunnel, where engineers measured unsteady aerodynamic pressures and forces exerted on the SLS vehicle. (NASA/David C. Bowman) #
A test model of the Orion spacecraft with its parachutes was tested high above the skies over Arizona on February 29, 2012. This particular drop test examined the wake, or the disturbance of the air flow behind Orion, that is caused by the spacecraft. This was the latest in a series of parachute drop tests conducted by NASA at the U.S. Army's Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona. (NASA) #
A test model of the Orion spacecraft with its parachutes, tested high above the skies over Arizona on February 29, 2012. (NASA) #
A C-17 plane dropped a test version of Orion from an altitude of 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona, on July 18, 2012. The main objective of the latest drop test was to determine how the entire system would respond if one of the three main parachutes inflated too quickly. (NASA) #
A test model of the Orion spacecraft with its parachutes in the skies over Arizona on February 29, 2012. (NASA) #
Textron Heat Shield Work. Inspecting the heat shield after a cold soak test, on November 22, 2013. (NASA) #
NASA's Super Guppy transport plane transports the Orion heat shield from Manchester, New Hampshire to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on December 4, 2013. (NASA) #
NASA's Super Guppy transport plane opens up to deliver the Orion heat shield from Manchester, New Hampshire to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on December 4, 2013. (NASA) #
Technicians work inside the Orion crew module being built at Kennedy Space Center to prepare it for its first power on. Turning the avionics system inside the capsule on for the first time marks a major milestone in Orion's final year of preparations before its first mission, Exploration Flight Test 1. (Lockheed Martin) #
Using mock-up components, technicians at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico practiced the stacking process that will one day be involved in mating the Orion Pad Abort-1 flight test launch abort system and crew module hardware, on September 23, 2009. (NASA) #
The new Orion crew capsule is catapulted into the air on May 6, 2010 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, during a test of Orion's launch-abort system, which will whisk astronauts and the capsule to safety in case of a problem on the launch pad, such as a fire, or during the climb to orbit. (AP Photo/Craig Fritz) #
The new Orion crew capsule, far left, above White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, during a test of Orion's launch-abort system on May 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Craig Fritz) #
The charred hull of the Launch Abort System in the ground at the White Sands Missile Range following Pad Abort-1 test. Note that only the Adapter Cone is visible. (NASA) #
Orion stationary recovery test at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, August 13, 2013. The Orion test capsule recently underwent stationary recovery testing, as NASA and the U.S Navy led the tests using the USS Arlington. During the test, the U.S Navy Dive Team checked the capsule for hazards while sailors from the USS Arlington approached the capsule in inflatable boats, and towed it back to the ship's flooded well deck. (NASA) #
A mock-up of the Orion crew exploration vehicle floats in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. NASA engineers were testing this 18,000-pound mock-up to learn what the crews will experience after Orion lands and the recovery teams begin their work. (NASA) #
NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim participates in an evaluation of the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) in the Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) at the Johnson Space Center, on June 5, 2012. The modified ACES suit is fully integrated with Orion life support systems and will be used by crews for Ascent and Entry as well as light Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) duties. The ARGOS system allows an astronaut to be suspended and have full freedom of motion, simulating a microgravity environment. During this test, the astronaut was evaluating the amount of dexterity the suit would provide for various tasks including translating across handrails, working with tools, and entering a spacecraft hatch. (NASA) #
A 5-percent scale model of the Space Launch System (SLS) is ignited for five seconds to measure the effects acoustic noise and pressure have on the vehicle at liftoff. The green flame is a result of the ignition fluid that is burned along with the propellant during this short-duration test. (NASA/MSFC/David Olive) #
A 5-percent scale model, including solid rocket motors, of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is ignited to test how low- and high-frequency sound waves will affect the rocket on the launch pad, on June 17, 2014. (NASA/MSFC) #
The bulkhead and nosecone of the Orion spacecraft are joined using friction stir welding at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana, on May 27, 2010. Nondestructive evaluations will validate the strength and integrity of the weld before the spacecraft is prepped for ground testing in flight-like environments, including static vibration, acoustics and water landing tests. (NASA) #
ULA Delta IV Heavy Boosters, prepared for Orion testing, March 20, 2014. (NASA/Radislav Sinyak) #
J-2X rocket engine testing at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, on February 27, 2013. The 550-second, full-duration test provided critical information on the combustion stability of the engine and on its performance with a new nozzle extension. J-2X engine testing allows engineers to collect additional data on the next-generation engine that will provide upper-stage power for the new Space Launch System (SLS) under development. (NASA/SSC) #
The second ground test of a full-scale attitude control motor (ACM) for the launch abort system (LAS) designed for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, seen on March 17, 2010. The test was conducted at Alliant Techsystems' (ATK) facility in Elkton, Maryland. The motor is designed to keep a crew module on a controlled flight path in the event it needs to jettison and steer away from a launch rocket in an emergency. (NASA) #
The Orion crew module for Exploration Flight Test-1, in the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) Cell at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida in this photo released by NASA on June 10, 2014. (Reuters/NASA) #
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy Launch Pad, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This is the launch pad, where the Orion EFT-1 capsule is scheduled to blast off atop a Delta 4 Heavy Booster in December of 2014. (NASA/Radislav Sinyak) #

Related links and information

Previous gallery | Next gallery | View All Back to top

Recent Entries

Join the Discussion

blog comments powered by Disqus

On Newsstands Now

Subscribe and SAVE 65%
10 issues JUST $2.45/COPY