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NASA Space Science

NASA's Orion Moon Craft Unveiled 179

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the bang-zoom-to-the-moon dept.
Velcroman1 writes "Lockheed Martin on Tuesday unveiled the first Orion spacecraft, a part of what NASA had planned as the sprawlingly ambitious Constellation project that would offer a replacement for the space shuttle — and a means to ferry humans into outer space and back to the moon. Orion and the companion Ares heavy-lift rocket were part of Constellation, a program cancelled under President Barack Obama's 2011 budget proposal."
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NASA's Orion Moon Craft Unveiled

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    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So a concept that got killed in the early 60s is more real than a current project that is actually in testing? Can we get a "get off my lawn" while you are at it?

      • So a concept that got killed in the early 60s is more real than a current project that is actually in testing? Can we get a "get off my lawn" while you are at it?

        Okay. Get off my lawn.

      • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:31PM (#35576726)

        Not more real, but certainly more exciting. The fact that a 50 year old concept is more exciting than a new space vehicle says a lot about the failures of the space program. If funding had continued just a few years longer we might have seen simple thermal nuclear rockets like NERVA fly. Even the simplest nuclear rockets would have been almost an order of magnitude more effective than chemical rockets, and the preliminary tests were 100% successful. The fact that no one has even broached the subject since says a lot about the public's fears of anything nuclear.

        • Not more real, but certainly more exciting. The fact that a 50 year old concept is more exciting than a new space vehicle says a lot about the failures of the space program.

          I'm not sure what you mean by "failures"? Maybe it didn't meet your expectations but definitely not failures. We have what we due to politics and limitations of reality not "Failures" of concepts or of what NASA has accomplished.

          Like everything else, Reality seldom matches our expectations.

          • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:03PM (#35578296)

            Chemical rockets are a dead end. They will never be able to put large amounts of supplies into orbit and will never be fast enough of interplanetary distances to be practical as anything more than an interesting diversion. The failure I am referring to is the failure to recognize this and invest money, time, and effort into alternatives. NASA successfully test fired a nuclear powered rocket that as a drop in replacement for on the Saturn V would have improved it's payload by 4x, using technology from the '60s. And then the funding dried up for anything experimental or paradigm shifting and we've been stuck on chemical rockets which have no hope of actually accomplishing any of the long term goals of the manned space program.

            Perhaps it isn't a failure of the agency, they do, after all, get their funding and many of their mission statements from congress. But I have never heard about a high ranking NASA spokesman going to congress and saying "We need money for advanced, non-chemical launch technologies".

            • by ZonkerWilliam (953437) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:29PM (#35578678) Journal
              While I agree with you, imagine if one nuclear powered rocket failed? If there had been nuclear derived shuttle and either Columbia or Challenger accident occurred? We are after all talking a minimum of 5GW reactors. It would have set back the space program years if not canceled it out right. Out of either type, chemical or nuclear chemical is still safer, thats why we still have them.

              I do see more hope for a Scram-Jet type launcher, or electromagnetic launcher. Both are much better than either chemical or nuclear. Once we are in the vacuum of space there is plasma and engines much like VASIMER, or even nuclear thermal.

              • by sznupi (719324)
                Scram-Jet / etc. "spaceplanes", when you have serious effort at costs estimation (HOTOL, for example), turn out not really better than "dumb rocket" using comparably advanced materials science (which for the "spaceplane" is required to even make it barely possible)

                Electromagnetic launcher / etc. - first, remember how such proposals talk about building a megastructure (often... dynamically suspended; do you see many normal (puny) buildings like that?).
                Secondly, not assuming gargantuan fantasies, the proj
            • by tsm_sf (545316)
              But I have never heard about a high ranking NASA spokesman going to congress and saying "We need money for advanced, non-chemical launch technologies".

              Isn't that precisely what killed the Ares heavy lift rockets?
              • ARES was killed because it was too expensive. It was supposed to be built using off the shelf shuttle parts, but wound up being a completely new rocket. It was so heavy that they would have needed to get new crawler transporters, rebuild the launch platforms and the crawler pathways leading to them. The rocket could barely fit inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. The chosen engines had nozzles that would have melted in the predicted thermal environment. It's costs were spiralling out of control. That
            • by khallow (566160)

              Chemical rockets are a dead end. They will never be able to put large amounts of supplies into orbit and will never be fast enough of interplanetary distances to be practical as anything more than an interesting diversion.

              Chemical rockets already have proven you wrong here. My view is that you have the two technologies switched around. It'll be a long time, if ever, that nuclear propulsion is permitted to lift payload out of Earth's gravity well. I think there will be many decades of successful in-space operation of nuclear propulsion before it'll be allowed in that critical role. By the time, nuclear propulsion is allowed, it might not even be necessary (with, for example, launch structures like space tethers or launch loop

      • They reused the name to help people forget that the other one ever happened.

        Or rather, to help people forget that the other one, which didn't actually happen, was ever planned.

    • by Loadmaster (720754) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:35PM (#35576794) Homepage

      Project Orion will never be revived. However, use of nuclear power may still live in VASIMR technology. The prototype is supposed to go up this year but we'll see. If it works as planned it's a game changer for in-space travel. Unlike most revolutionary technology companies Ad Astra is actually helmed by an ex-astronaut with an actual Ph.D. VASIMR technology comes from Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz's MIT thesis.

      It is a huge year for SpaceX, Ad Astra, and spaceflight in general this year.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/10/ad_astra_nasa_vf200_announcement/ [theregister.co.uk]

      • by lysdexia (897)

        The Ad Astra Rocket Company, headed by Dr Franklin Chang Díaz. has already built an experimental prototype version of its Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR)

        Did Robert A. Heinlein's ghost ghost write that article? :-)

      • The fact is, that while nuke itself is lightweight, the current means of generating high amounts of power/energy from it, is not. All of the large systems are thermal and require the ability to dump waste heat. In space, you have no easy way to dump, so it is radiated outwards. That requires a LONG HEAVY BOOM. With that weight, VASIMR is just not possible. Instead, it will be NERVA that will win the day. Interestingly, with a NERVA engine, you can still add a small generator to it and use that to power the
    • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:36PM (#35576810)

      Here's an interesting link about many of the nuclear propulsion systems over the years: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20040112/nuclear.shtml [strangehorizons.com]

  • Offtopic, by why are the majority of aerospace projects painted in that hideous baby puke green?

    I know there must be technical reason behind it, what is it?

    • Re:Baby puke green? (Score:4, Informative)

      by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:16PM (#35576488) Homepage Journal
      Most paints applied to spacecraft are chosen due to their thermal properties. Some paints will give higher reflective indexes, while others will absorb more energy, and still others are designed to let a certain amount of energy through the paint and into whatever surface it is covering. I don't know which paint, specifically, has the "baby puke green" color that you are referring to, but I would wager that the entire body of this spacecraft was coated in that paint specifically to control the thermal pathways through the spacecraft body.

      It's worth noting that one of the most difficult and most important aspects of spacecraft design involve the energy management within the spacecraft. Spacecraft are subject to high levels of radiation, high and low temperature extremes, and house multiple boxes of electronics that cannot be cooled via typical convective methods as they are on the ground. Thus, to keep a spacecraft operating effectively, a full analysis must be done to take into account all energy (thermal or otherwise) sources in a spacecraft and redirect energy to appropriately sized energy sinks (radiators, heat-pies, etc.). This is one aspect of spacecraft design that many folks fail to take into account when discussing how simple it would be to build a spacecraft that does [insert theoretical task here].
      • Thus, to keep a spacecraft operating effectively, a full analysis must be done to take into account all energy (thermal or otherwise) sources in a spacecraft and redirect energy to appropriately sized energy sinks (radiators, heat-pies, etc.).

        Mmmmmmmm... heat-pies.. glarggghughhhhhh *Drool*

      • by phrostie (121428)

        It's the ultimate green tail

    • Offtopic, by why are the majority of aerospace projects painted in that hideous baby puke green?

      I know there must be technical reason behind it, what is it?

      Note that the picture shows the interior structure of the capsule, not the final external panels. I assume that it's probably a yellow-green zinc chromate coating that is commonly used to prevent corrosion on aluminum parts on aircraft and spacecraft.

      • Offtopic, by why are the majority of aerospace projects painted in that hideous baby puke green?

        I know there must be technical reason behind it, what is it?

        Note that the picture shows the interior structure of the capsule, not the final external panels. I assume that it's probably a yellow-green zinc chromate coating that is commonly used to prevent corrosion on aluminum parts on aircraft and spacecraft.

        Why bother coating the aluminum? Aluminum oxide does a pretty good job of preventing corrosion.

        • by icebrain (944107)

          Why bother coating the aluminum? Aluminum oxide does a pretty good job of preventing corrosion.

          Not really. Exposure to salty, humid air (think naval aircraft or anything sitting on the pad at KSC), dissimilar metal contact, etc. will all cause corrosion. Plus, aluminum alloys are more susceptible to corrosion than pure aluminum (or alloy sheets with thin aluminum coatings). Stress concentrations can exacerbate corrosion.

          Plus, corrosion spreads, and the more widely spread it is, the harder it is to repair.

          Think about it for a minute. We've been building airplanes made of aluminum for decades. If

          • by imsabbel (611519)

            Look up the old liverys of american airlines. Thats not silver paint, thats polished aluminium.
            for example: http://s3.amazonaws.com/collectapedia_prod/images/62178/American_Airlines_990_Astrojet.jpg [amazonaws.com]

            Nowadays that does not fly anymore, as more and more composites are used, which are
            a) not as sexy unpainted
            and
            b) non-conductive, so need a conductive paint layer to prevent damage in thunderstorms

            • by icebrain (944107)

              The bare metal scheme requires constant polishing. However, it's also in an easily-visible location without holes or corners to trap moisture like the inside of a structure would have. It's workable on the outside of an aircraft, but really not practical for the inside.

              Look, I've built an airplane and work on airplanes for a living. I think I know what I'm talking about.

        • by fnj (64210)

          Not that good. Not for most aluminum alloys under any kind of severe conditions. And zinc chromate over anodizing is much better than zinc chromate alone.

          Of course, speaking of the inside of a spacecraft, it's hard to imagine the conditions would be at all severe.

      • Exactly. It's the same protective primer they paint 747s and such with before they apply the outer-coat of paint and assemble all the pieces.

        If you ever see a jetliner in the shop, it will probably be re-coated with this stuff anywhere that is sealed or infrequently maintained.

    • by fotbr (855184)

      Anticorrosion coating, color helps make sure no parts are missed and un-coated.

    • by idontgno (624372)
      Zinc Chromate Green [colorserver.net]. Corrosion inhibition coating for aluminum. The heraldic color of the aerospace industry since the 1940s.
  • The Shuttle program was great for what it was and I am sad to see it go. However, I welcome the idea of an Apollo like program to inspire, distract, and encourage pushing the envelope again. I think the world needs some vision beyond what is terrestrial these days.
    • Yeah, but not a warmed over, super-sized Apollo capsule. Is that it for innovation out of NASA? Modernized 40 year old capsules?
      • by U8MyData (1281010)
        I have thought long and hard about that. It also goes along the line of why not utilize the previous designs for the shuttle and improve on it rather than making a whole new launch system? But, until we have some kind of vastly improved propulsion systems, the design focus was on a series of upgrades on the proven. Just my two cents anyway...
        • Re:Back to Apollo (Score:4, Informative)

          by 0123456 (636235) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:20PM (#35577582)

          It also goes along the line of why not utilize the previous designs for the shuttle and improve on it rather than making a whole new launch system?

          Because the shuttle is a flawed design created by committee to meet numerous contradictory requirements?

        • by Andy Dodd (701)

          In terms of actual track record - the Shuttle failed to deliver on many of its promises. Despite being a reusable vehicle, I believe it proved to be actually more expensive to operate than one-time-use launch vehicles. Part of that was due to conflicting requirements from multiple entities - the military wanted certain capabilities that greatly increased cost.

          Meanwhile, the one-time use + capsule approach worked VERY well while it was in use, and has continued to work very well for Russia.

          Go with what wor

      • by vlm (69642)

        Yeah, but not a warmed over, super-sized Apollo capsule. Is that it for innovation out of NASA? Modernized 40 year old capsules?

        You know, my brand new tower looks exactly the same as my 386 tower from 1993. Is that innovation? Modernized 18 year old computers?

        (If you look real close the power supply type has changed, and I no longer have 3.5 or 5.25 floppys, in its place I have a front panel USB hub, and no turbo button / turbo LEDs, but this all requires close examination)

        • by Ironchew (1069966)

          For rockets, at least, I'm under the impression that the modern Soyuz is a solid design.

          • For rockets, at least, I'm under the impression that the modern Soyuz is a solid design.

            Odd that you use "modern" in the context of Soyuz, when both the spacecraft and the booster are 40-year old designs.

      • Re:Back to Apollo (Score:4, Interesting)

        by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:43PM (#35577988) Homepage Journal
        Capsules are an extremely capable form factor when talking about spacecraft. When something is orbiting a gravity well in a vacuum or near vacuum, the geometry of that thing has some very powerful effects on the design of the system in general. Capsule are nice in that they are symmetric about one axis. This makes controlling and pointing them very easy. If you take a geometry like that of the space shuttle, the control problems become much more difficult. Those large wings and that vertical stabilizer act as moment arms about your roll axis. Any forces that act upon those moment arms turn into large, asymmetrical torques (these forces can be due to atmospheric drag, radiation gradients, thermal gradients, micro-meteor impacts, etc.). Damping out the increase in angular momentum due to torques applied to such large moment arms requires more powerful, more massive, more power-hungry momentum exchange devices (like reaction wheels, CMG's whatever). Thus, such a clunky geometric design puts some heavy restrictions on your system design space.

        Now, if you take a form factor like the capsule, you find that you don't have those giant moment arms (save for the solar arrays which, if designed properly, should go a long way in canceling out each other's torques). What's more, you have a nice aerodynamic shape that can reenter atmospheres much more elegantly than, say a brick with wings bolted on. All in all, the capsule is a beautifully elegant design that solves many of the difficult space-environment design problems through passive geometry, rather than through more active systems like large control mechanisms or expensive ceramic tiles.

        Just because a design is 40 years old doesn't mean it's poor. The car is the same form factor that it was back when it was design in the early 1900's, but that's because there is a lot to be said for a 4-wheel base vehicle. That doesn't mean all cars are the same as the Model T though.

        Finally, you should probably realize that The Orion was built and designed by Lockheed-Martin, not NASA.
      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        What's wrong with capsules? They're the best, most reliable, and most efficient solution to the problem of transporting humans to space and returning them to Earth, and they're going to remain that way until the Space Elevator is built and rockets are used.

  • Choice quotes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by srussia (884021) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:10PM (#35576370)
    "The spacecraft is an incredibly robust, technically advanced vehicle capable of safely transporting humans to asteroids, Lagrange Points and other deep space destinations that will put us on an affordable and sustainable path to Mars.”

    Many of Orion's components can be re-used in subsequent flights, including some electronic systems, Bray said. The spaceship itself won't be reused because of the tremendous forces it endures on liftoff and re-entry, he said.

    Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrats who pressed Obama to salvage the Orion project, said they were confident the spacecraft will fly, but neither discussed specifics in brief remarks at the dedication ceremony for the test building.

    I think there's a type somewhere... seems more like the Onion Moon Craft.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrats who pressed Obama to salvage the Orion project, said they were confident the spacecraft will fly

      In an unrelated story, Lockheed Martin announces [bizjournals.com] a $35 million training center for Orion in Colorado.

    • by jafac (1449)

      yeah, no launch vehicle, no significant reusable structural components. . . ?

      But I guess an astronaut can bring his or her cell-phone and laptop from one flight to the next, right?

      I completely hate everything this design and vehicle represents. But, I still think it's totally cool. I still want to see it fly. Just not on that horrid abortion that was Ares.

  • Am I reading this correctly? Lockheed-Martin is going ahead with the construction of the capsule even though the government isn't paying for it anymore?

    Is this the moment where a private corporation risks a hundred million dollars betting on space exploration?
    • There are quite a few private companies that are currently developing space capsules that the government isn't paying for. The first one that comes to my mind is Interorbital Systems. Much of SpaceX's Dragon capsule was developed with private funds. Boeing is currently developing a commercial capsule for launch cargo, and, possibly, crew. Orbital sciences is developing an unmanned capsule. There are also a handful of other, smaller contenders, but I can't recall them off the top of my head. Blue Origin has
      • I will disagree – It’s a lack of vision. Blame it on our Presidents [and I do use plural] or our Congress – but it’s a vision thing.

        Do we want to
        Build a space station?
        Go to Mars?
        Go to the Moon?
        Go to an asteroid?

        All of these are valid, but each of these requires something a little different. Instead of a clear voice [We shall put a man on the moon in 10 years] we have th

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          All of these are valid, but each of these requires something a little different. Instead of a clear voice [We shall put a man on the moon in 10 years] we have these ½ measures for the past 20 years. And this leaves us with what? No replacement for the Space Shuttle?

          Clear voices and tunnel "vision" are great for showing off human ingenuity (and specifically American ingenuity in the Cold War), but aren't necessarily that great for making progress. Not to knock Apollo, but seriously, what a clear voice of "We shall do [insert phenomenal but specific achievement" gets us is 10-20 years of focus on a specific task that lets us touch the place we were talking about, plant a flag, then leave with a couple samples. Great, but not what I call visionary. It was a vision, ba

          • To get funding for this, you need to fire the imagination of the people. To do that you need to put people into space. And then, when you get them into space, for Pete's sake, DO NOT show them playing in zero G. Show them working. This is probably the biggest mistake NASA ever made.
            • by Chris Burke (6130)

              Personally, my imagination was fired much more by Voyager, Hubble, the Mars Rovers, and Cassini, than it ever was by the Shuttles or ISS. ISS is a worthy endeavor, I'm just saying, when I think of humans in space doing science I think that's really cool, but when I think of all these instruments studying other planets, other galaxies, expanding human knowledge of our universe, it brings tears to my eyes.

    • by bware (148533)

      They're going ahead because Congress hasn't passed a budget for 2011 yet, so under CR, they keep getting the funding profile they had last year. The government, i.e., you and me, are still paying for it. And when we stop, they'll stop.

  • by ModernGeek (601932) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:25PM (#35576644) Homepage
    I suggest that everybody read about Orion at the Lockheed Martin Website [lockheedmartin.com].

    I highly recommend this video [lockheedmartin.com].
  • Shuttle Replacement = Duke Nuke'Em Forever

    The only way we're getting a shuttle replacement is if someone other than NASA's in charge.

    • by oni (41625) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:09PM (#35578380) Homepage

      I disagree. NASA hasn't bungled anything. The reason we don't have a replacement is that it takes more than 8 years and every president cancels the last guy's program. We wouldn't have made it to the moon if JFK hadn't been a hugely popular martyr. And even then, as soon as we set foot on the moon, they canceled Apollo. And every president since has canceled the last guy's program - except Carter. Carter, being a one-term president tried but failed to cancel the shuttle and that's the only reason we ever had it.

      So Regan had the shuttle. Bush #1 supported a replacement but Clinton canceled it. Clinton supported a replacement (venturestar) but Bush #2 canceled it. Bush #2 supported a replacement (constellation) but Obama canceled it.

      I don't see how any of this is NASA's fault.

      • by IrquiM (471313)
        It doesn't take 8 years, just ask Elon Musk. It takes more than 8 years if a part of the project (the biggest?) is keeping people in jobs and lawmakers demanding stupid, really expensive, unsafe stuff included in the design (read shuttle derived).
  • "Lockheed Martin on Tuesday unveiled the first Orion spacecraft, a part of what NASA had planned as the sprawlingly ambitious Constellation project"

    Keep in mind that while this was NASA's plan - the plan only existed because NASA was directed to create and implement the plan by the Bush administration.

    • by oni (41625)

      which is like saying that Apollo was NASA's plan, but it only existed because NASA was directed to create and implement the plan by JFK.

      You're trying to poison the well.

      • which is like saying that Apollo was NASA's plan, but it only existed because NASA was directed to create and implement the plan by JFK.

        Well, that's pretty much like saying water is wet and fire is hot - it's the stone cold truth.
         

        You're trying to poison the well.

        Nope, just reaching for clarity here. Too many people act as if NASA were some independent entity. It isn't.

  • If you launch from 20 miles up - basically to the point where there aerodynamics starts to become irrelevant, how much could you then save on the size of rocket/amount of fuel needed to reach orbit - or the moon? Clearly not a new or startling idea, but any numbers on what a floating launch pad would buy you? (assuming the capability having a strong enough / lighter than-air launch pad (i.e. launch pad supported by large helium / hydrogen balloons).

    -CF
    • by 0123456 (636235) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:23PM (#35577626)

      Fairly significant, actually. Kistler's original launcher design was an 'SSTO' which would have launched from a platform lifted to around 100,000 feet; they reckoned that made the difference between viable and non-viable for that design.

      There are two main benefits: you don't have to worry about aerodynamic drag, and you can use engines optimised for vacuum operation which are more efficient than engines optimised for sea-level operation.

    • by imsabbel (611519)

      Depends on the concept used.

      Speaking in terms of gravity, you dont gain much. But you are putting the vast majority of the atmosphere below you. This makes, for example, hydrogen engines more efficient for 1st stages (they need huge tanks for the light nitrogen, which create tons of drag in the lower atmosphere.)

  • 18 pictures and not one showing crew accommodations.

  • You mean like the harsh complete lack of environment in "deep space"? Acoustical and vibration testing for riding around in a hard vacuum, surrounded by nothing? Are they worried that the astronauts are going to put on smash rock at 120 decibels with overdriven bass and accidentally shake the capsule apart?

    Some copy writer for the press has been watching too much Star Wars.

    Or maybe, just maybe, the vibration testing is for doing things in near space, like flying through the atmosphere while landing.

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