With less than two weeks to go before NASA awards the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) contract to either Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman/Boeing, CEV Project Manager Skip Hatfield has given a full review of the current status on the design phase of the vehicle.
An 85 minute address to Constellation workers at their recent “All Hands” meeting, included new video of the interior and exterior of the crew module, including fascinating test and simulation footage.
**Full 135mb (85 mins) video available on L2 – not the 10 minutes MSFC video**
**Selected screenshots of the Hatfield presentation section available here**
The awarding of the CEV contract will be made on August 31 – according to NASA memos – to the winning contractor, and announced to the public the same day.
While sources have continued to note serious issues with the Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) – with an additional TIM meeting taking place at the Kennedy Space Center next week, dedicated to the CLV – the CEV has been going to plan throughout its design stages – now currently passing through DAC-2. (DAC-2 CEV Presentation available on L2 – **related article available here**).
The current work being carried out on the CEV is to ensure a blueprint of requirements and parameters can be given as guidelines for contractor to work alongside NASA in bringing the CEV to life, ahead of a 2012-2014 debut manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
‘One of the big activities we’ve had going on is the run down to the final days of the contractor selection,’ said Hatfield. ‘The first destination for CEV is to the International Space Station – and we have a mock up for interior layout, built in Building 9 next to the current Space Station models.
New video and images show the work on the inside of the CEV, which will compromise of state-of-the-art computer displays and software.
‘In parallel with the interior design, we’re also doing a lot of work with the cockpit design,’ added Hatfield. ‘We’ve a NASA led team that is heavily involved with working on the development of the windows. The facilities we have here at JSC are seeing the mock up of those windows – and being able to simulate the outer window views.
‘In addition to that, we’re also working on the conceptual cockpit instrument panel layout. We’re very rapidly turning these things around here.’
Hatfield himself joined the Constellation program from the role of ISS Program Integration Office Chief. With the CEV not being used for moon trips until around 2018, his experience is being called upon for the initial role of the CEV, to replace the Space Shuttle as the next generation vehicle that will carry astronauts to the orbital outpost.
‘The team is working very hard on the LIDS (Low Impact Docking System),’ he added, speaking about the mechanism that will use to dock with the ISS.
‘We’ve challenged them to go ahead and get this system done – and they’ve picked up the pace considerably,’ Hatfield added jokingly – as a time-lapse video showed workers racing around the system.
Styled on Apollo, the CEV will parachute back to Earth, but while Apollo splashed down into the Pacific Ocean, the CEV will land on its airbags on a designated landing site (likely in California). Engineers have been testing simulations of the CEV landing on both land and sea.
‘We have a number of landing tests that we’re doing, including simulations of the CEV landing in water,’ added Hatfield. ‘We also carry out drop tests of various configurations, which plough up lots of dirt up at Langley (Flight Research Center – LaRC) as we do various impacts for straight down, as well as angular impacts.
‘One of the neat things that happened during the testing was that we were able to do some testing on the flora and fauna requirements,’ as the video showed super high resolution photography of a CEV heat shield landing on the ground at LaRC, even capturing a dragonfly getting out of the way at the very last second.
‘We missed him unfortunately, so we weren’t able to verify any requirements,’ joked Hatfield. ‘But it is fascinating to see how close this is working here.’
Testing and evaluations are continuing to be carried out on what will become the heat shield for the CEV, with materials that will make up the crew’s barrier from the intense heat of re-entry – plus computational analysis – being put through the rigours of NASA’s super computers.
‘A lot of the other tests that we’re doing for the Thermal Protection System (TPS) involve work at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and out at Ames Research Center (ARC),’ continued Hatfield.
‘We’re testing a number of materials that can be used in the heat shields. We’re doing these tests as risk reduction elements ahead of bringing the contractor on board, so this has been helping us a great deal.
‘A mock up at the Langley Research Center of the Launch Abort System has seen a lot of analytical work with the super computers and other analytical techniques to look at the computational flows involved with abort cases and entry cases.’
As part of the evaluations, NASA is also using wind tunnel testing on scaled models of the vehicle, and also – surprisingly – firing models out of cannons, to show data on the launch abort system.
‘One of the cool tests that we’re doing – and being an ex-Army guy I can always get into these kinda things – is we’re actually firing scale models of the CEV out of cannons, which can help validate a lot of our computational codes.
‘That work is then used as part of the computational work, and then we’re doing a lot of work in our wind tunnels with the entry cases as well as the ascent cases.
‘There have been a series of very sophisticated models created for this work, filled with instrumentation and equipment to help to run these tests, so that we can simulate various angles of attack for entry and various flying characteristics as we’re heading toward the ground.
‘Fresh from that, we’re able to get flow visualisations of what the aerodynamic flow is off the vehicle.’
Throughout the video, which includes updates on all the elements of the Ares I-1 test vehicle, Ares 1 CLV and CEV, and even CaLV (Cargo Launch Vehicle), full scale fabricated parts can be seen, giving an idea of real life scale, which Hatfield was keen to note.
‘Another mock up, up at the Glenn Research Center, is off the Service Module (SM) – this one is for the 5.5 meter diameter vehicle, so it’s a little bit bigger than what the real one will be, but it gives you an idea of the scale of this hardware that we’re going to be producing for this program.