NASA sets Orion 13 for Moon Return

by Chris Bergin

NASA has drawn up its Constellation mission manifest, which sets out the dates and full mission baselines for the test flights, International Space Station (ISS) manned and unmanned missions, plus the first flights to the moon.

The highlight of the manifest is Orion 13 – a 21 day mission, launching in December, 2019 – which will see three members of a four man crew set foot on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

The full presentation from which this article was based is available for download on L2. Other associated L2 resources listed at the end of this article.

ARES1 / ORION FORUM  ===== ARES V / MTV (Mars Transport Vehicle) FORUM has exclusively obtained the fascinating manifest document and presentation for the Constellation program, including scheduling of flight events from the present through 2020.

NASA currently plans the first manned flight of the Orion CEV in September 2014 and the first human lunar return mission in approximately December 2019, shortly after a manned mission to the moon, with an unmanned descent to the lunar surface.

Below is a round-up of the main elements of what is a wealth of information into NASA’s change back to exploration past Low Earth Orbit.

The manifest reflects a precise schedule for all NASA Constellation flights through the end of the next decade. Test flights will continue through 2014, with ISS missions occurring through the middle of the next decade and lunar test flights beginning in 2018.

The first test flight, called Ares 1 in the new document, is the previously known Ares I-1 test flight that will test the first stage of the CLV with four active SRM segments and an inert fifth segment an upper stage. The 2-minute flight will land in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Ares 1 flight is to be followed with a series of ascent abort tests at White Sands from 2009-2011. The AA-1 abort test will occur in May 2009 and go to transonic speeds. AA-2 is set for August 2010 and will test the maximum dynamic pressure region (max Q) on the vehicle; AA-3 in February 2011 will be an ascent abort at a non-nominal altitude, while Ascent Abort flight 4 will be in September 2011 from high altitude.

The first test of an operational Ares CLV is to occur in September 2012 and will include a 5-segement SRB and operational upper stage with 1 J-2X engine. This Ares 2 flight will carry a boilerplate CEV and LAS and be suborbital. This will be followed up by the orbital Orion 3 flight test in September 2013, which will carry the first unmanned CEV and a Launch Abort System to an ISS-inclination orbit. The mission is scheduled to last for about two weeks.

The Orion 4 flight will carry another unmanned CEV in June 2014. This dress rehearsal for the first manned mission will include rendezvous (but not docking) operations at the ISS.

The first manned CEV flight will be Orion 5 in September 2014. Carrying a crew of two, possibly to the ISS, this will also be a flight of about two weeks and will have at least a basic EVA capability. The first Orion cargo flight will occur in 2014 as well: the Orion 6 flight, carrying unpressurized cargo, is scheduled for a 90-day mission launching in December 2014.

The first operational ISS mission is Orion 7 in May 2015. This 180-day flight will be the first to test the full duration of the CEV and will carry both cargo and a crew rotation. Orion 7 will also be the first CEV with a crew of three. Orion 8, also scheduled for May 2015, and Orion 9, in July 2015, are both 30-day unmanned cargo flights to the ISS.

The next manned mission is scheduled to be Orion 10, launching in September 2015. This will be another six-month crew rotation mission with a crew of three. Orion 11 is another of the 30-day unpressurized cargo mission, with a launch date set for December 2015.

All of the Constellation flights through Orion 11 will use LC-39B and the new MLP previously described on this website.

Lunar flight tests are to begin in earnest after Orion 11. The maiden flight of the massive Ares V cargo launch vehicle, Ares V-1, is scheduled to occur in June 2018. This vehicle will use two 5-segment SRBs and an operational core stage with 5 RS-68s, but will hold ballast instead of an EDS (Earth Departure Stage).

The LSAM 2 flight in June 2019 will be the first LSAM flight and the first launch of the full Ares V vehicle with an EDS. LSAM 2 will occur in conjunction with Orion 12, a manned CEV flight with a crew of four. Orion 12 will be the first flight of the Block 2 Lunar CEV.

Orion 12 and LSAM 12 will execute a mission similar to the Apollo 10 lunar dress rehearsal. The CEV will dock with the EDS and LSAM and enter low lunar orbit (LLO). The LSAM will perform an uncrewed lunar descent and landing, and then launch to rendezvous with CEV in LLO.

The CEV crew will remain in lunar orbit during Orion 12; the CEV will be powered down to test a powerup procedure commanded from the LSAM (as will be necessary during future flights when the CEV is left unmanned in a quiescent mode).

Orion 12 will thus be the first human lunar mission since 1972 and will also the first in-space test of the LIDS docking system.

Orion 12-LSAM 2 will be a major milestone for the demonstration of the autonomous capabilities of the Constellation spacecraft, as such a complex series of maneuvers as descent, landing, ascent, and rendezvous with a manned vehicle have never been performed autonomously by one spacecraft. The flight is scheduled to last for approximately 21 days. It will also include a test of EVA transfer between the Orion and LSAM.

The first Constellation lunar landing will be LSAM 3 – Orion 13 in December 2019. It will carry a crew of three to the lunar surface in the LSAM, leaving one astronaut in the lunar orbit in the CEV. It is unclear whether this represents a shift in general policy to leaving one astronaut in the CEV during lunar sortie missions or is simply a precaution for the first lunar surface return.

Another lunar landing, LSAM 4 and Orion 14, are scheduled for June 2020, though no detailed information exists for that flight as yet. All lunar flights are initially launched to 28.5 degree orbits.

Several interesting things can be noted from this flight manifest. No further ISS flights are listed after Orion 11, which could point to the direction change towards COTS becoming the primary transportation in relation to the ISS. 

The numbering of the next Orion flight in 2019 as Orion 12 implies that there are no further ISS flights planned subsequently to Orion 11, and probably reflects the US policy to exit the ISS around 2016. This also suggests that the bulk of Constellation activity and funding from 2015-2019 will consist of development of the LSAM and Ares V.

It is interesting to note that the ISS capability is being developed for relatively few operation flights. As previously reported here, NASA’s intention appears to be to build two new MLPs for Ares V. It also seems likely that NASA desires to have Complex 39A ready to support Constellation by 2018, as all flights after Orion 11 are listed as departing from either LC39A or B, in contrast to Ares 1 through Orion 11, which all launch from LC39B.

Finally, the Orion 12 and 13 crews are referred to as ‘Altair Orion’. It is possible that the Altair name, originally reported by NASASpaceflight in February, thus refers to the Block 2 CEV.

Other L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: Ares I-1 Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. ARES I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. Latest Ares I and Ares V baseline Configuration image and data. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-1: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. Constellation news updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.

90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. CLV TIM Meeting Information. CLV/CaLV Infrastructure, Timelines and Information. Escape System Trade Study Presenation.

CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Constellation SRR updates. CLV Stick – Troubleshooting/Alternatives/Updates. New CEV Images (include abort mode). Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…plus more.

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