Lockheed Martin Opens Orion Simulation Center

On Mar. 21, Lockheed Martin unveiled its suburban Denver Space Operations Simulation Center (SOSC), a large development, evaluation and testing facility for NASA’s Orion/Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

Lockheed hopes to launch Orion on its first test flight in 2013 and prepare for congressionally mandated operations by the end of 2016.

The 41,000-sq.-ft. environmentally friendly SOSC was constructed on deep Colorado bedrock, isolated from regional seismic disturbances, to provide a stable testing environment for the evaluation of precision instrumentation.

Located at Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Facility, the new center hosts the first Orion ground test article, which was shipped from the company’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans in early February.

The flightworthy test article will undergo performance testing at SOSC to recreate the conditions experienced during the ascent, launch abort, in orbit, re-entry, descent, parachute and water recovery regimes.

Orion would be restricted to crew rescue duties at the International Space Station under the strategy outlined by President Obama last year. However, Congress favors the deep-space exploration mission designated by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. The facility’s capabilities include Orion space station docking as well as asteroid encounter simulations.

Orion was designed from inception to fly multiple, deep-space missions,” says John Karas, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Human Space Flight programs. “Our collective expertise in systems integration, planetary exploration and human spaceflight operations will help ensure success for our nation’s next-generation space transportation system.”

NASA selected Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor for Orion, the human spacecraft component of the George W. Bush administration’s all-but-canceled Constellation Program. Congressional legislation currently refers to the capsule as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

The company has developed a range of prospective deep-space missions that follow the “flex path” strategy outlined by the Obama administration-appointed Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee in 2009.

Lockheed Martin’s stepping-stone approach envisions “Plymouth Rock,” a mission to a Near-Earth asteroid; “L-2 Farside,” a mission to the Lagrange point affording a vantage point to the Moon’s far side; and “Red Rocks,” a mission to the moons of Mars, where astronauts could carry out robotic missions on the Martian terrain.

 

-aviationweek.com

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