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NASA'S Orion Arrives At Kennedy, Work Underway For First Launch 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-to-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with news about the arrival of the Orion spacecraft at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center today. "More than 450 guests at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida welcomed the arrival of the agency’s first space-bound Orion spacecraft Monday, marking a major milestone in the construction of the vehicle that will carry astronauts farther into space than ever before. 'Orion’s arrival at Kennedy is an important step in meeting the president’s goal to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s,' NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. 'As NASA acquires services for delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station and other low-Earth destinations from private companies, NASA can concentrate its efforts on building America’s next generation space exploration system to reach destinations for discovery in deep space. Delivery of the first space-bound Orion, coupled with recent successes in commercial spaceflight, is proof this national strategy is working.'"
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NASA'S Orion Arrives At Kennedy, Work Underway For First Launch

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  • Alternate Source (Score:5, Informative)

    by Krazy Kanuck (1612777) on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:04PM (#40521285)
    Here's an alternative article, the linked one appears to be down or /.'d. http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2012/07/02/NASAs-Orion-spacecraft-arrives-in-Florida/UPI-87191341254811/?spt=hs&or=sn [upi.com]
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:08PM (#40521335)

    ...at a non-slashdotted link, no less:

    http://www.space.com/16395-orion-space-capsule-nasa-unveiled.html [space.com]

  • Re:Alternate Source (Score:5, Informative)

    by Krazy Kanuck (1612777) on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:08PM (#40521339)
  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Informative)

    by 680x0 (467210) <vicky@ste[ ].com ['eds' in gap]> on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:15PM (#40521399) Journal
    It's Constellation [wikipedia.org] that was defunded (with the Ares I and Ares V rockets). A replacement rocket (the Space Launch System [wikipedia.org]) was funded instead.
  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:21PM (#40521457)

    For those keeping score at home:

    The Constellation Program [wikipedia.org] developing next-gen human spaceflight was investigated in the early 2000s, and reinvigorated in revised form in 2004, when President Bush endorsed significant spending on manned space exploration.

    NASA began developing, as part of that project, a Crew Exploration Vehicle [wikipedia.org], working on it roughly 2004-2005, somewhat into 2006.

    The head of NASA changed in early 2005, and the new head ordered a new study [wikipedia.org] reevaluating NASA's human spaceflight programs.

    As part of that study's outcome, the Orion spacecraft was contracted out to Lockheed, starting from 2006.

    In 2009, President Obama ordered a new study [wikipedia.org] reevaluating NASA's human spaceflight programs.

    As part of that study's outcome, Constellation got the axe in the proposed 2011 budget (released early 2010).

    The final version of the budget (late 2010) salvaged some parts of Constellation, spinning much of it off into a cheaper, scaled-down program, of which Orion is a major part, the other major part being the new launch vehicle [wikipedia.org]. All that got going again in 2011.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:38PM (#40521619)

    Ummm spacex is a company and orion is a capsule.

    Spacex could make a deep space capsule, but they probably are not at this time.

    As for taking a NEO capsule and flinging it unmodified into deep space, there's some pretty significant thermal issues that get bolted into the design pretty early, for example a NEO capsule assumes it can radiate (or adsorb) heat facing the earth in almost one complete hemisphere. This doesn't mean its impossible for a "decent NEO capsule" to also be a "decent deep space capsule". There are other inherent issues in some bolted on equipment like commo and navigation. In general life is harder and heavier when you don't have the earth filling one hemisphere. You can always make a NEO-only capsule slightly lighter than a deep space capsule.

    There are also certain mission trajectory issues. One whacked out Apollo emergency return trajectory had the capsule entering pretty steep at damn near escape velocity which is an immensely higher thermal load than merely controlled descent from low earth orbit. You could baby the trajectory of a deep space capsule and just declare some "survivable with a massive shield" abort orbits to be unsurvivable. But generally a deep space heat shield is going to be much heavier and higher speed rated than a NEO heat shield.

    Another interesting topic is electrical, longer missions trend toward solar until you need potable water at which time the fuel cell "waste" of distilled H2O comes in handy. Obviously (?) deep space capsule means longer mission means more O2 storage so you need to build into the design of the NEO capsule space to store more O2 that a NEO could ever require which takes excess weight.

  • by drgould (24404) on Monday July 02, 2012 @06:45PM (#40522233)

    There are also certain mission trajectory issues. One whacked out Apollo emergency return trajectory had the capsule entering pretty steep at damn near escape velocity which is an immensely higher thermal load than merely controlled descent from low earth orbit. You could baby the trajectory of a deep space capsule and just declare some "survivable with a massive shield" abort orbits to be unsurvivable. But generally a deep space heat shield is going to be much heavier and higher speed rated than a NEO heat shield.

    One thing you don't have to worry about is the heat shield.

    It's made of PICA-X [wikipedia.org], a highly-advanced abrative heat shield material developed by SpaceX based on PICA, a heat shield material developed by NASA in the '90s for the Stardust [wikipedia.org] return capsule, "the fastest man-made object ever to reenter Earth's atmosphere (12.4 km/s or 28,000 mph at 135 km altitude)."

    According to Elon Musk:

    "It's actually the most powerful stuff known to man. Dragon is capable of re-entering from a lunar velocity, or even a Mars velocity with the heat shield that it has."

  • Deep space travel is fairy tale for the foreseeable future.
    Orion is either:
    (1) a joke
    (2) somebody is fleecing the treasury for funding for as long as nobody raises any alarm.

    I'm incline to believe it is #2.

    We needed the biggest rocket ever built even to this day (Saturn V) just to get to the moon.
    Mars is at least 200x farther away.

    While Mars is 200x farther away, in terms of energy costs needed to get there it isn't nearly so bad. By far and away the most "expensive" thing to do in terms of spaceflight is simply getting to low-Earth orbit (LEO), as the Earth's gravity well is nasty, as is trying to fly out of the atmosphere with as little drag as possible.

    If you look at the Delta-v budget [wikipedia.org] for getting to Mars compared to the Moon, in theory Mars is "cheaper" (assuming bulk goods and robots moving in Hohmann transfer orbits and other energy saving ways to travel between planets). There are also other propulsion systems like Ion propulsion and VASMR that can make the trip much, much faster and don't require a huge gas tank in order to function (both can operate off of solar cells, RTGs or even nuclear reactors as an energy source, and the thrust going at a measurable fraction of the speed of light thus giving insane looking ISP values). Stuff like that doesn't work in terms of getting people into LEO, but it works just fine in interplanetary space.

    The Moon is close enough that such exotic propulsion systems are not really economical for manned spaceflight, thus you need the monster disintegrating pyramid like the Saturn V.

    The physical distance may be huge, but it isn't as bad as it would seem, particularly since spacecraft enroute to Mars don't experience drag unlike spacecraft in Star Wars or a motor vehicle traveling cross-country.

  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Monday July 02, 2012 @09:07PM (#40523065) Homepage Journal

    No The Constellation program was cancelled. The Orion capsule and the SLS portions were kept.

    SLS wasn't necessarily kept, but rather transformed into a make-work project, hence the title of the program commonly called the "Senate Launch System" after the engineers who designed the spacecraft in the upper house of the national legislature in America. I had no idea that Orrin Hatch and Richard Shelby had advanced degrees in aerospace engineering, but they certainly laid down enough requirements that they sure demonstrated that capability.

    That rocket sure has all of the hallmarks of being designed by a congressional committee too, where pesky things like physics and mechanical strength are perceived to be as mutable as the U.S. Constitution.

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