Designing Exploration – the MSFC way

by Chris Bergin

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) managers have given an overview of their integral role in the agency’s return to exploration, showing off the facilities that are being used to aid the evolving design process of the Ares and Orion vehicles.

Utilizing MSFC’s Spacecraft and Vehicle Systems Department, the Engineering Directorate is a key part of NASA’s aim to refine the design of Ares and Orion, while mapping out the future of the agency’s exploration plans to the moon and Mars.
Huge amounts of VSE releated insider news and presentations are available for download on L2. See list at the end of this article.


**ARES V / Mars Transport Vehicle (MTV) LIVE UPDATE PAGES**

The department was involved with the recent Ares Systems Requirements Review (SRR), and is responsible for the technical design, analysis, evaluation, verification and integration in the development of spacecraft and systems supporting NASA’s mission. The department comprises of around 700 civil service and contractor employees.

The department has five divisions: Systems Design and Analysis; Avionics Systems; Structural Design and Analysis; Flight Mechanics and Analysis; and Systems Engineering.

One of the most visually interesting areas of MSFC’s Engineering Directorate is the Collaborative Engineering and Design Analysis Room, or CEDAR, which integrates multidiscipline computer-aided design into the Marshall Center engineering design and analysis process for components and systems of NASA launch vehicles and spacecraft.

In CEDAR, Marshall Center engineers utilize powerful computer systems, displayed on huge screens in Building 4600, to demonstrate and study on-screen design simulations of future exploration projects.

Jim Lomas is the Engineering Directorate’s lead systems engineer for the Ares I Upper Stage in the Systems Design and Analysis Division. His team are laying out the plans to integrate all of the designs on the upper stage, a completely new element being developed by MSFC.

‘We have to ensure it all comes together and operates like it’s supposed to,’ said Lomas, to the Marshall Star. ‘We get to see everything that’s going on here at the center and all of our amazing capabilities and help decide the best things to use. Our work doesn’t end until we fly.’

Changes are ongoing, with the Upper Stage (US) moving to a common bulkhead design, which has already seen the vehicle reduce in length by 60 inches. Recently, Constellation decided against moving to a 6.3m diameter US – which would have drastically changed the appearance of the vehicle.

‘The Exploration Launch Office Chief Engineer, along with polling members of the TIM, recommended going with common bulkhead configuration due to the dry mass savings of 2,165 lbm needed to close the payload requirement,’ noted Constellation’s Steve Cook last month.

‘On day two of the TIM, the US Chief Engineer presented a Risk assessment for the following three different configurations: Separate Tanks, Common Bulkhead with a 5.5-meter diameter, and a Common Bulkhead with a 6.3-meter diameter.

‘The high risks in performance estimate savings, schedule, and cost supported the TIM recommendation of not going forward with a 6.3-meter diameter design configuration. ‘

The Engineering Directorate is managed by Jack Bullman, who pointed to MSFC’s history with the shuttle program as a baseline for being able to take on the challenges of Ares.

‘We have so many exciting projects underway, and we are such an exciting place to be,’ said Bullman. ‘Our expertise has helped us fly every shuttle flight without a main engine controller anomaly and is now being used to build the rocket that will ‘historically’ stand next to the Saturn V on I-565 in the future.

‘I can’t think of a place I’d rather be.’

Other interesting areas of MSFC that are involved in exploration include the Flight Robotics Laboratory, where objects can float on a thin layer of air atop the world’s flattest floor. Operations in this facility allow controllers to test techniques for spacecraft docking or remote-controlled robotics.

Known as the Flat Floor Facility, MSFC have been testing the automated rendezvous and docking system that will be used on NASA’s return to the moon.

At present, NASA is utilizing three major centers of Constellation work, at MSFC, JSC (Johnson Space Center) and KSC (Kennedy Space Center).

Requirements continue to evolve, with a recent change – via a Program Management Review (PMR) – noting that Ares/Orion should no longer be classed as ‘Lunar capable from the start’ – but to be classed as ‘built for Lunar, certified for LEO,’ as NASA aim to ensure the vehicles are ready to provide US manned access to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2014.

Because of the huge amount of data collated during the process of designing and developing the Constellation vehicles, MSFC are also preparing to go live with a new web tool for Constellation workers to utilize.

This tool – called the Systems Engineering Guide – is expected to be available in the spring, allowing engineers and managers to easily find processes and procedures, described as ‘a website that is a one-stop-shop for Marshall engineers.’ It is not known if this has been brought in due to what sources describe as a ‘minefield’ – when talking about the complex ‘Windchill’ system that is currently used by Constellation workers.

L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation:
Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) overview presentation – Jan 16. Major changes to Ares I Upper Stage – expansive details and data. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. Saturn Twang Test Video for use with Ares I-1R. CLV Umbilical Trade Matrix XLS.

Vehicle interfaces for the DAC 1C version of Orion Ares – Jan 3. Ares I-1R Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-1 timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I troubleshooting latest. 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 Presentation.

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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