Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NASA Constellation Program Part 2: The Orion Crew Vehicle

This is part two of the series on NASA's Constellation program, if you didn't read part one then here it is so that you can catch up. Today we will be discussing the Orion Crew Vehicle and all of the parts that come with it. Well let's go ahead and get right into it.

The Orion Vehicle is being designed to carry a crew of four to six astronauts, and will be launched by the Ares I rocket. It is scheduled to begin flights at the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015 with future flights to the International Space Station. Though flights to and from the ISS isn't Orion's main purpose, its primary function will be human missions to the Moon and Mars. The design of the Orion Vehicle is based heavily on the Apollo command module, with one of the major differences being that Orion can carry up to six passengers while Apollo could carry a max of three. You can see the Orion Vehicle's main components in the diagram.

The Orion Crew Module will be 5 meters by 3.3 meters, mass around 8.5 tonnes, and have an internal volume of 6 cubic meters. Orion will dock by means of the Low Impact Docking System, which is pretty much high tech USB port for spaceships.

The craft's service module will have a pair of deployable circular solar panels that replace the fuel cells that powered Apollo. Orion is propelled by an Aerojet (read more) AJ-10 rocket engine, derived from the second stage of the Delta II rocket. The closed-loop recycling system used will be identical to those units used on both the Mir and International Space Stations.

The abort system uses an abort motor, which is more powerful than the Atlas 109-D booster that launched astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962, that would clear the astronauts of any danger that may be threatening them. Now Orion has safely completed its mission and returns to Earth it has a new way of landing. It uses a combination of parachutes and either retrorockets or airbags for capsule recovery, this eliminates the expensive naval recovery. As I said earlier the craft should be in flight by 2014, and since NASA has this as one of its top priorities I think that it may actually be close to on time. Only time will tell. This crew vehicle has a lot of potential for Moon missions and especially for Mars missions; I just hope that it will fulfill that potential.

Now don't forget that tomorrow night we have a full lunar eclipse around 10:30pm EST. It should be a really amazing eclipse and it is the last one until 2010 so don't miss it!

Source: NASA.gov, Wikipedia.com
Image Source: Wikipedia.com

The Fool


Bob Johnson said...

Great post as usual, I am very interested in the Constellation Program. I saw the Luar Eclipse and it was fantastic to say the least.

Swubird said...

Oh, if it were only true. I'd love to see human beings set foot on Mars during my lifetime. I'd love it even more if I were one of them, but I'll settle for watching it on TV. However, I just don't think it will happen. Something will come up. No political will. No money. A host of things. But keep up he good postings. I read them with enthusiasm and hope for the future.

May the Force be with you.

The Fool said...

I saw the eclipse and then again on your blog Bob, great pics.

Swubird in some ways I agree with you, I think that there is a chance that Constellation and NASA will fall through on their promise of bringing people to Mars, but I think that with the private sector growing so quickly that there will soon be opportunities for a trip there through private companies. But we will see.

The Fool

michaelbrazelton said...

NASA has painted itself into a corner. NASA's marching orders from Congress were to use Space Shuttle derived hardware as much as possible to develop the next generation space lift operation. Instead, "they" under the leadership of Michael Griffin, have choosen to develop an expensive, time-consuming, all-new space lift operation. The SRB for Ares I and Ares V is an all-new rocket plagued with difficulties. Further, it requires an all-new upper stage. Even then, it barely gets the new CEV (CM+SM) into orbit. In fact, the "new" CEV is very much stripped down. It is smaller than originally planned. It won't be able to land on land (like the Russian's) and, therefore, won't be as safe or reuseable. The Ares V does not make any use of Shuttle hardware. The main tank is all new (10 meters in diameter v: 8.4 for the Shuttle). The EDS is all new. There will have to be two different launch pads for the two different rockets. Further, the Ares V is too heavy for the crawler which will have to be modified. Similarly, the Ares V and crawler is too heavy for the crawler pathway which will have to be reconstructed. The gap between the retirement of the Shuttle and the launch of a manned Orion is at five years and widening. The US will not have a mode of transporation to resupply its own space station, the ISS. And the Shuttle technical work force at the KSC will be disbanded. An additional consequence of the Ares I anf V is that the US will not have a intermediate heavy-lift vehicle with which to launch a future manned space-plane or other cargo heavier than the CEV but lighter than the lunar lander. Is anyone but me an advocate of the DIRECT 2.0 proposal or is everyone snowed by NASA's ill conceived plan. If not stopped, within a year NASA will start dismantling space shuttle manufacturing facilities and launch pads. I cannot believe the astronaut corp is happy with the announced architectute and schedule. I cannot believe there aren't a large percentage of NASA engineers and management discouraged by the course that NASA has choosen. Again, . . . am I alone?

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