Orion landings to be splashdowns – KSC buildings to be demolished

by Chris Bergin

NASA Constellation and Lockheed Martin have deleted the airbag landing system from the next Orion design cycle (Orion 607) in a weight saving measure, opting to return to an Apollo-style splashdown for the vehicle’s end of mission.

Meanwhile, a list of shuttle facilities at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) that will be demolished between 2010 and 2012 – including all three Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs) – has been produced.





Huge amounts of VSE related insider news and presentations – THE most comprehensive place to follow Ares/Orion development – are available for download on L2.
See list at the end of this article.


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The water landing scenario – previously only required during a launch abort – is one of several items that are being baselined into the next design cycle as a weight savings measure.

The deletion of landing airbags – and reduction of Orion structure – will aid the requirement Lockheed Martin engineers have been given to reduce the mass of Orion, allowable because of the ‘softer’ water landings.

Previously, the Orion was designed to land on large airbags at a landing range, although earlier hints that was no longer going to be the case came via documentation that showed a water landing – off the coast of Australia – for the Orion 3 unmanned test flight in September 2012. The first manned flight, Orion 4, was due to land at Edwards Air Force Base.

Also part of the mass saving design cycle – knocking off a total of 1,200 lbs from Orion – is the deletion of green propellants on the Crew Module, returning to the tried and tested hypergolic Reaction Control Systems (RCS). This weight savings measure was made in-line with the change to a water landing, due to salt water’s neutralizing of potential hypergolic fuel spills after splashdown.

Other information acquired by NASASpaceflight.com’s L2 section notes the continuing efforts of scheduling the transition between Shuttle and Constellation, referencing the changes that will be made to KSC, post-Shuttle.

Those evaluations have concluded with the decision that all three OPF’s will be demolished between 2010 and 2012, in addition to the Hypergol Maintenance Facility (HMF) and SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) work shop.

At the Shuttle Landing Facility, the shuttle specific landing aids will be taken down in addition to the Orbiter Mate-Demate Device. All TAL sites will be abandoned, as they belong to the foreign nations.

Some facilities that may be modified to support Constellation include the STS Flight Simulator (Orion simulators), Space Station Processing Facility (Station support until de-orbit and possible use for Orion processing), and the Payload Canister Rotation Facility. Their fates are currently classed as ‘undecided.’

Modifications to the sound suppression system at Pad 39B and the MLP (Mobile Launch Platform) are scheduled to be finished by the beginning of next year, ahead of the 2008 test flight of the Ares I-X. LCC (Launch Control Center) firing room 1 will be activated in August 2008.

The FSS (Fixed Service Structure) modifications to support interface with the dummy upper stage and flight monitoring equipment of the Ares I-X will be completed by Jan. 2009. The lightning mast on the FSS and the VAB high bay 3 work platforms are also scheduled for Jan. 2009.

Other information notes that the Mobile Launcher for Ares 1 – currently at the 60 percent stage of its design review – will have a total rollout mass, including vehicle, of around 12.5 million pounds (567,000kg). For comparison, Saturn V had a total rollout mass of 12.63 million pounds and the shuttle has a rollout mass of 12.02 million lbs.

The dry weight of the Ares I will be 2.2 million lbs (1,000,000 kg), and the tower will weigh 2 million lbs (907,000 kg). The rest of the weight is in the MLP base, support systems, and ground support equipment.

The interstage design for Ares I is also progressing. At 5.5 meters in diameter and 5.7 meters in length, it will house four Booster Deceleration Motor pods (for SRB staging) and two RCS (Reaction Control System) pods for roll control.

The Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for Ares I is scheduled for mid 2008, with a Critical Design Review (CDR) in early 2010. Transition from Ares I design to Ares V design is to start in 2011 and fully transition in 2013. Ares V-Y (Dummy upper stage) is scheduled for mid 2018 with Orion 13/LSAM 1 being the first moon flight in late 2018, although that schedule is deemed ambitious, due to budget constraints.

MCC (Mission Control Center) will be conducting a flight, following on Ares 1-X, with some control on Ares 2, and full control on Ares 3 (first real flight). MCC and Crew procedure development will start early next year, and full flight crew training will begin in 2011.

Selection of L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: 

MLAS Presentation and information. Latest Mobile Launcher details. Orion/Ares I/Delta IV Heavy NEO Feasibility Study (Video). Constellation EVA Study Presentation. Superb Gene Kranz address to CxP workforce (Apollo to Orion feature) video. MOD ‘LEO to Mars’ presentations.

Superb Ares I Launch Ascent, Pad Abort Test CGI Videos (three). Integrated Stack (IS) Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) notes – Nov 6 to Nov 15. The full ‘8th Floor News’ – Constellation Update (performance issues) – Nov 5. Ares I Mobile Launcher PMR.

‘Proposed’ Ares I SRBSF (Mini VAB) and graphic. LSAM (LDAC-1) Video and Images. Several Constellation All Hands Videos and Presentations. Ares I Pad Rollercoaster (Old and New presentation and slides – the very cool ‘CGI ride on the Ares pad coaster’ video. Ares I VAB ‘In-Line’ Stacking presentation slides.

Presentation of Ares/Orion impacts relating to Shuttle manifest acceleration. Ares I Interstage diagrams. Ares V Super Crawler. Ares I Launch Pad images (ML etc.) Hi Res images of Ares I-X Upper Stage. Orion 606-7 Data Updates. Updates Constellation launch schedule through to Orion 15. Orion Seat test photos. New ML Graphic and info. New Ares V graphic and baseline data. Large collection of hi res Orion paracute drop tests. SIX Part Series of Ares I Upper Stage Graphical Overviews. DAC-1C DDD Vast Slides on Vehicle Design. ATK First Stage Presentation. 39B Lightning Towers Slides. DAC-1C Departure points to DAC-2 Upper Stage Graphcs (Many Changes).

Orion/CEV Display Layout Presentation (40 pages). ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV. Weather Shield (Rain Shield) for Orion on the pad. New Super hi-res images of Ares I. ATK Cutaway graphics of Ares I – perspective and axonometric. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CEV Paracute Assembly System (CPAS) Presentation.

Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) overview presentation. Changes to Ares I Upper Stage – expansive details and data. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CLV Umbilical Trade Matrix XLS. Vehicle interfaces for the DAC 1C version of Orion Ares. Ares I-X Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-X timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-X: 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. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.

90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. Escape System Trade Study Presentation. CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. 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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