Altair project buying into Orion lessons for development process

by David Harris, Chris Bergin

As Orion and Ares progress towards PDR (Preliminary Design Review) and the next phase of development cycles (DACs), the Altair Project is beginning to seriously study potential configurations for the lunar lander.While still a long way off a final design, the project is working on its alignment with the ongoing changes to the capabilities of its launch vehicle – Ares V – while using lessons learned with Orion in a “smart buyer” design approach.

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

All of this article is based on documented L2 information. For an overview of how L2 works, **click here for sample**





As Ares V’s capabilities continue to morph, from the taller, heavier version of the vehicle (as revealed by this site in April, 2007) so does Altair. The starting point is known as the ‘Minimum Functionally’ vehicle, with the aim of the concept lander to define the goals and requirements of a flyable design.  

This will look considerably different to the design of the eventual Altair that will fly, given it is the absolute minimum vehicle capable of satisfying the requirements – along with no extras, such as multi-fault tolerance. 

The primary driving force behind the effort is to ‘provide early, critical insight into the overall viability of the architecture,’ as the project refines towards what is hoped will be a 2019 return to the moon for NASA.

‘Minimum Functionality Approach: Minimum Functionality is a design philosophy that begins with a vehicle that will perform the mission, and no more than that,’ noted a new presentation on Altair, created this week – and available on L2. ‘(The design) does not consider contingencies, (and) does not have added redundancy (‘single string’ approach). 

‘Altair has taken a Minimum Functionality design approach (as it) provides early, critical insight into the overall viability of the end-to-end architecture, (and) provides a starting point to make informed cost/risk trades and consciously buy down risk.’ 

Following the path of the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle – Orion) ‘smart buyer’ approach, the lander will incorporate lessons learned during Orion’s development to streamline the process from conception to flight.  

As such, Altair’s goals at the moment are to focus on defining the lander concept: studying components and equipment that will be required, perform consumables and resource analyses, and sub-system performance analysis.  

‘A Minimum Functionality vehicle is NOT a design that would ever be contemplated as a ‘flyable’ design! The Minimum Functional design approach is informed by: Design Development Test and Evaluation (DDT&E),’ added the presentation.

‘Considerations for Safe and Reliable Human Rated Spacecraft Systems. CEV ‘Smart Buyer’ lessons learned. Recent CEV ‘Buyback’ exercises.’ 

The current lander baseline, known simply as the ‘p711-b Lunar Lander’, has visible heritage in the ESAS (Exploration Systems Architecture Study) ‘spider lander’.  

The deck height is still seven meters above the surface, but this will change with the new 10 meter Ares V shroud and EDS (Earth Departure Stage), with yet-to-be-released conceptual work understood to show a much wider/shorter lander – aligned with building dimensions at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the continuing changes to Ares V. 

Capable of supporting a four person crew for seven days in sortie mode or a 180 day outpost mission, the crewed version weighs in at 45,586 kg – including reserves – while carrying 500kg of additional cargo with the crew on a sortie mission.  

The sortie version incorporates a 7.5 meter squared external airlock module that remains attached to the descent stage allowing a smaller ascent module.  

The LH/LOX descent stage is powered by an RL-10 derived engine producing 18,500 lbs of thrust. The ascent stage is baselined for the N2O4/MMH powered OME/RL-18 from the shuttle, but retains the option to go to LOX/Methane. RCS (Reaction Control System) propellants are also hypergols at this time. 

The 53,600 kg cargo lander concept deletes the ascent stage and replaces it with 14,631 kg of cargo on the upper deck. Cargo capacity can be increased depending on the landing site. The requirement is 15-17 metric tons of dedicated cargo anywhere on the surface. 

The design maturation process will continue using industry input and independent reviews. The schedule shows detailed design cycles beginning in 2010, kicked off by a vehicle requirements review to baseline requirements. Hardware test beds will be built in the 2009-2011 timeframe to reduce risk on new technologies.

‘Detailed Approach for Design Team: Initial task was developing a preliminary in-house design: 6-9 month duration (Agency wide team – Expert designers from across the agency),’ added the presentation. 

‘Minimalist approach – add people on a case-by-case basis, only as needed (Subsystems, not elements. Approximately 20 – 25 people on the core team Co-located initially (approx 2 months). Working from home centers following initial co-location period.) 

‘Focused on Design (‘D’ in DAC): Developed detailed Master Equipment List (over 2000 components). Developed detailed Powered Equipment List. Produced sub-system schematics. NASTRAN analysis using Finite Element Models. Performed high-level consumables and resource utilization analysis. Sub-system performance analysis by sub-system leads. 

‘Keep process overhead to the minimum required: Recognizing that a small, dynamic team doesn’t need all of the process overhead that a much larger one does. But… It still needs the basics.’ 

The knowledge gained from the in-house design will go towards drafting the final requirements and developing a preliminary government design – a long road, which will span many years to come.

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

Altair Overview Presentation, Feb 26, 08. Ares I Risks and Status, Feb 25, 08. Ares I-X Booster Recovery Images and Video, Feb, 08. Ares I-X Pad Images, Feb 08. Ares I-Y Mission Overview Video (50mb – Superb).  Orion Lunar Transit CGI Video. (Several more videos, including first video of Orion splashdown).   

Orion Rendezvous with the ISS CGI Video, plus AERCam Inspections. Ares I Thurst Oscillation Update Section.  Images of completed PA-1 boilerplate Command Module at LaRC.  CxP Planning for Architecture Closure – Feb 19. Ares V Overview Presentations. Other Major CxP Updates for Feb (List restricted to L2).

Orion 607 Overview Presentation (Jan 08), Constellation Program Status/Budget and new Manifest to Orion 20 Presentation (Jan, 08). Michoud Transition to Ares I/V (Jan 17, 08). Several MLAS (Max Launch Abort System) Presentations. Over 60 Hi Res Images of Orion Mock-up at JSC (Hatch, Seats, Flight Deck) – December.

Lunar Habitat Assembly. PRCB Presentations on hardware and infrastruction transition (from Palmdale to MLP Park) ‘Follow live’ Lightning Towers Construction images. 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 much more (L2 Constellation over 100gb in size). 

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