Orion’s plea to Ares I: Stop adversely hindering our design process

by Chris Bergin

Lockheed Martin’s design efforts on the Orion vehicle are being hindered by Ares I driven requirements, documented notes claim, with concerns ranging from the constant design changes, to Thrust Oscillation (TO) mitigation requirements.

With Crew Seat Isolation efforts deferred until next year – in order not to delay the recent Ares I PDR (Preliminary Design Review) – Orion documentation calls for the Ares I Project to stop adversely affecting Orion’s design, with its own PDR delayed well into 2009.

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Orion’s Development Background:

While the public face of the Constellation Program (CxP) continues to be driven via overly-positive statements on the current state of progress, the reality of their own documentation points to Ares I causing turmoil in Orion’s development over these opening years of the design phase.

Design issues for any new vehicle are to be expected, and correctly represented by the often-used comment of ‘if there weren’t problems, we wouldn’t need engineers.’ However, Orion’s short life on the drawing board has been an unhappy childhood.

The vast majority of Orion’s design changes have been driven by Ares I’s shortcomings – via performance and mass issues – to ably inject the vehicle into orbit. The fact that the Ares I now has several thousand pounds of reserve mass properties negates the suffering it has brought on the vehicle it is designed to serve.

Those penalties Orion had to endure could be seen at the very start of its design process, when the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) reduced in size by 0.5 meters in diameter, soon followed by Orion having its Service Module stripped down in size and mass by around 50 percent.

‘Mass savings’ would become one of the most repeated terms surrounding the Orion project.

In July, 2007, NASA sent another set of requirements to Orion’s contractor Lockheed Martin, culling the amount of propellant the vehicle would carry on International Space Station (ISS) missions, in order to bring its weight down.

A month later, the fallout on Orion continued with the decision to move to water landings, due to the requirement to lose yet more mass from the vehicle – this time the airbag landing system – a move first denied, but now confirmed as implemented.

Efforts to return to land landings are continuing, but only via a reduced airbag system that has smaller mass penalties. Design challenges are also highlighted via the alternative option, and water landings remain baselined.

October, 2007, saw one ‘final’ major push to deal with mass savings on Orion, to such an extent Ares I would eventually gained several thousand pounds of reserve mass – something which is now often mentioned in press materials as a sign of how well Ares I development is progressing, without mentioning Orion’s sacrifices.

This latest mass saving process was known as the Zero Base Vehicle (ZBV) effort, as the focus switched to the Lunar version of Orion. During the ZBV process, the vehicle underwent a ‘scrubbing’ to a minimum weight, ahead of the reapplication of some of the deleted capability.

Already some issues between the Constellation related departments were starting to show, with an All Hands meeting notes referencing the need for ‘teamwork and chemistry’ as the way forward through the design efforts.

‘Failure is an option during development,’ Ares program leader Steve Cook noted at the program-wide All Hands meeting. ‘We are willing to take calculated risks to further our knowledge.’

‘The CEV Project faces some very real challenges and difficult decisions will need to be made,’ Constellation Program’s Bob Armstrong warned, as the vehicle came out of its System Definition Review (SDR) Board meeting, with the most significant issue classed as controlling spacecraft weight to match Ares I performance.

Aiding the process, Orion gained a new ‘bullet cover’ aerodynamic fairing, to assist Ares I’s first stage performance, while the Launch Abort System (LAS) also received mass savings.

A separate effort – now under a special ‘management’ budget – is continuing on the MLAS (Max Launch Abort System), although this is now known to be based around a Human Rated Ares V back-up option, with MLAS being the only LAS system that would fit inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) due to the height of Ares V.

The result of the ZBV process then moved into the ‘buy back’ phase, where some of the lost capability – based on critical requirements – was added back on to Orion. This was carried out by the Orion Vehicle Engineering Integration Working Group (OVEIWG).

Ares I didn’t leave all of the mass and performance problems on Orion’s doorstep, with trade studies initiated on a larger nozzle ratio to increase performance – now confirmed for the Lunar missions – added to evaluations into the potential expendability of the first stage, classed as potentially resulting in a 3,000lbs mass saving.

2008 opened with a motivational speech from legendary Flight Director Gene Kranz, sent in a heavily produced video to the Constellation workforce.

‘Our learning curve, as we went through Mercury, Gemini and Apollo was very steep. With Mercury we learned of leaders and leadership – leaders must have integrity, they are up front, they challenge the team to accomplish their mission,’ Kranz noted.

‘We also learned a lot about ourselves with Mercury, as a lot of us came in from aircraft testing, with egos as big as the room we worked in. We had to learn to leave our egos at the door and become a team, so we became one.’

Two major problems would cause headaches within CxP soon after, relating to budget shortfalls for the Constellation Program, and the realization that Thrust Oscillation on the Ares I First Stage required a major mitigation effort – in order to ensure the safety of the crew riding in Orion.

The shortfall in funding eventually led to the decision to delay a number of key launch milestones by up to a year, with Constellation manager Jeff Hanley pre-empting the official announcement with a note of confidence that the gap between shuttle and Orion would not breach five years – citing Orion 2’s first manned launch in March 2015, even though the first ISS crew rotation would not happen until a year later on Orion 4.

The funding shortfall also has major impacts on the Upper Stage test schedule, with numerous elements of ‘required’ testing now gutted out of the schedule. Some major test requirements have now been deferred to when the hardware first flies on Ares I-Y, which is deemed by sources as ‘increased program success risk’. (article will follow this month, documentation on L2).
Thrust Oscillation and an unhappy Orion:

Thrust Oscillation is created by solid rocket motors, its mitigation process has evolved, via many options, and the engineers have a plan. However, like a Battlestar Galactica plot twist, all is not as straightforward as per recent comments on the post Ares I PDR media briefing.

Had NASA taken the recommended plan to counter TO, Ares I’s PDR would have been delayed – as confirmed in Lockheed Martin documentation on L2, which claims the requirement of Crew Seat Isolation hardware will reappear via a ‘Change Request’ (CR) in 2009.

‘Option 1 – Isolation plane at FS/US + isolation plane at US/SM + passive Tuned Mass Absorbers (TMA) to aft skirt. Option 2 (SELECTED) – Isolation plane at FS/US + passive (now active) TMAs in aft skirt + Orion crew isolation,’ notes the documentation. ‘Option 3 – Isolation plane at FS/US + active RCS counter pulse firing (48 jets). Option 4 – Isolation plane at FS/US + active hydraulically powered TMAs in aft skirt.’

Lockheed Martin (Orion) disagreed with NASA’s recommendation, asking NASA to instead move forward without affecting Orion’s’ design process, given the Crew Seat Isolation design was too immature to be added to the vehicle in time for the PDR’s review of TO.

‘NASA recommends that Program pursue Option 2, but with full knowledge of Orion impacts,’ the documentation notes. ‘Lockheed Martin’s recommendation is to have Ares pursue Ares Thrust Oscillation Mitigation solutions within the Ares Project and not adversely effect Orion’s design.

‘Option 2 includes Orion isolating the crew response from 1g to 0.25g (required) and addressing design changes. TO requirement levied results in PDR IMPACT!’

While Constellation managers initially claimed that the third mitigation option of Crew Seat Isolation – added to the ‘shock absorbers’ on the aft skirt, and the Isolation plane (dampers) in the interstage – wasn’t required, the latest media briefing back-tracked slightly, claiming it is still being worked on as a back-up option.

However, the documentation shows that Orion’s mitigation option has simply been deferred, in order to avoid causing a delay to the recent Ares I PDR. It will then return to the table in time for the Delta PDR on Thrust Oscillation in 2009, which by then the Crew Seat Isolation option will have matured enough to be viable as a mitigation option.

‘NASA CxP leverages Thrust Oscillation requirements on Orion design, which would result in the following options. Orion accepts the CR (Change Request) resulting in a delay to PDR (eliminates confusion on baseline design and TO assessment studies),’ added Orion documentation.

‘SELECTED: Orion proceeds forward with current design to PDR and then a CR is put in place, and a Delta PDR is scheduled to address the TO changes (delays TO work until FY09).’ The Delta PDR has been confirmed for the middle of 2009.

As to the design of the Crew Seat Isolation hardware, three possible approaches are open to engineers: ‘Isolation of individual seats (via springs or flexures). Isolation of entire seat pallet. ‘Clean Sheet’ Active CIAS Pallet Isolation design. Isolation system mass about 200 lb for both passive approaches and upwards of 500 lbs for an active system.’

Thanks to the vast array of mass shedding activities noted in the first half of this article, such a mass hit can be easily swallowed by the integrated Ares/Orion vehicle. However, Lockheed Martin are unhappy with the constant changes to the requirements and the design of Orion that result from such activities.

That frustration has come out via a reaction to an apparent ‘concern’ NASA has with the quality of Lockheed Martin’s latest filed version of Orion (606C).

‘NASA has expressed concerns with 606C model and quality,’ the documentation noted. ‘Community must understand that there has not been two consecutive deliveries with the same baseline design, because (of) multiple configuration changes (prior to PDR on a non-consistent design).’

This may also be responsible for the delay in Orion’s own PDR, which was due in November. Managers have since confirmed that the PDR has been delayed – though sources not the delay could be as wide-reaching as between six months and even a year.

The primary reason is understood to be the requirement of an additional DAC (Design Analysis Cycle).

L2 Members: Refer to TAG keywords ‘Ares I’ ‘Orion’ and ‘TO’ for updates and expansive presentations. All quotes in the article above are from L2 content.

Selection of L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation (some not listed):

Ares I-X Full Vehicle Design Slides. Upper Stage Testing Changes and Impacts Presentations. Orion position on Ares and TO. Ares I TO Mitigation Plans and Notes. Ares V Frabrication Hardware Presentations and Photos. Ares V Point of Departure Presentation. Orion WEST in NBL Hi Res and Notes. 8th Floor News Updates. Ares V Alternative Engine Arrangement Presentation. Hi Res CxP Logos. Full (and very expansive) set of presentations on Ares/Orion mass and status report. Ares I ‘Parasorber’ TO migitation hardware presentation and animation. Ares I TO Risk Slides. Ares I Risk Status.

Hi Res Images of Ares I FS Parachute Test Vehicle (JDTV). 20mb of new Lunar Images of Chariot, Athlete and Lunar Crane. Ares I KSC Processing Master Book – 184 pages. Changes for Ares I-X (Images). PRCB Transition Presentation (Shuttle to Ares). Ares V (5.5/6xRS-68) Presentation (and more). Orion Parachute Vehicle Images. Latest Risk Matrix for Ares. SI Unit Directive Document. CxP PMR08 Manifest. PDR and associated notes from CPCB meeting. Orion Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV) Photographs.

110mb worth of Ares I-X Weekly Test Presentations (Ares I-X, J2-X etc. up to end of April) The Orion LIDS (Low Impact Docking System) Section (Images, Videos, Engineering Notes). Hi Res Images of Ares I in the VAB. Ares I-X Integrated Milestone Charts. Ares I Thrust Oscillation Focus Team Status Presentations (over 50mb – includes DTO on Shuttle missions), Ares I-X Global Buckling Status Presentation, Ares I – Launch Pad Stabilization and Damping Presentation, Ares I: Purge/Vent/Drain and Vehicle Access Presentation.

Ares Tilt Up Umbilical Arm (TUUA) Test – Video, Ares/Orion Comm and Tracking Presentation, Ares I Nozzle Extension Update Presentation, Ares/Orion Integrated Stack TIM Summary (Major Issues) Presentation, Orion Land vs Water Landing Update + Crew Survival (post 36 hrs) Presentations.

Altair Overview Presentation. Ares I Risks and Status. Ares I-X Booster Recovery Images and Video. Ares I-X Pad Images. 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 220gb in size).

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