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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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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday July 02, 2012 @04:51PM (#40521145)

    When I read the summary, I was expecting something a little more impressive than the picture in the article.

    Okay, they did add some more windows. That's nice...I guess. But I'm pretty sure going to an asteroid or Mars is going to take something a little more substantial.

    • by vlm (69642)

      I'm pretty sure going to an asteroid or Mars is going to take something a little more substantial.

      Its OK to be kind of minimal, because by the time the .gov guys get a ship out there, the .com guys will already have a hotel, resort, convention center, pr0n studio, condos complete with HGTV "flip that martian condo" TV show, etc.

      Kind of like worrying about carrying everything you need to go camping in the wilderness on the back of a little honda scooter, well don't worry about where to keep the tent and the MREs if by the time you get to your destination, your destination looks like Vegas.

      • by sgage (109086)

        Right. Because there is such a great incentive for the ".com guys" to be out there. Right, it's gonna look like Vegas.

        No one is going out there except for the ".gov guys", because there is no immediate profit motive. Once the .gov guys have got it figured out (at public expense), the .com guys will go out there and extract the profit (for themselves). This is called "private enterprise". T'was ever thus. It's a big joke.

        • by MrKaos (858439)

          No one is going out there except for the ".gov guys", because there is no immediate profit motive. Once the .gov guys have got it figured out (at public expense), the .com guys will go out there and extract the profit (for themselves). This is called "private enterprise". T'was ever thus. It's a big joke.

          I think it makes sense the government building some of the highly specialised equipment like the crew module because NASA has the expertise in this area. The aviation giants pretty much have the rest of the market anyway, they will be the ones that fly humans beyond LEO.

          It maybe an opportunity for smaller players to do supply missions that don't need to be human rated.

        • by wiggles (30088)

          I wouldn't say nobody in .com land is going out there...

          Don't forget about these guys [cbsnews.com].

    • You're falling prey to the George Lucas effect. Sure, we could have made a better looking design, as long as we don't mind sacrificing cost and safety. And extraterrestrial landings become far easier with less mass and less complexity, not more.
      • I think you misunderstood what he said. He said substantial, not more Silver Falcon-like.

        Judging from the comparison between this cg concept [wikipedia.org] and the picture in the article, the current status of the Orion space craft is far from being any substantial for its purpose.

    • When I read the summary, I was expecting something a little more impressive than the picture in the article.

      Okay, they did add some more windows. That's nice...I guess. But I'm pretty sure going to an asteroid or Mars is going to take something a little more substantial.

      You do know that there are a limited number of geometries that are optimal for re-entry, right?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_entry#Entry_vehicle_shapes [wikipedia.org]

      • by crazyjj (2598719) *

        You do know that there are a limited number of geometries that are optimal for re-entry, right?

        Yes, I understand that. But the summary was full of laughable hyperbole, making it sound like this was some amazing accomplishment. In reality, NASA just spent $3 billion reinventing spam-in-a-can from the Mercury era.

        So, I agree that "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But I would supplement this with "If it ain't broke, don't give Lockheed Martin $3 billion to reinvent it."

    • by kelarius (947816) on Monday July 02, 2012 @08:41PM (#40522923)
      This is their launch-return vehicle, they're obviously not going to sit in something the size of a small minivan for 6 months on the way to Mars or an asteroid (unless its Apophis or something similar). The idea is they take this to orbit, dock with a spacecraft assembled in space, then go to wherever they want to go (eventually). The shuttle was always a boondoggle, the only reason it had the configuration it did was to return things from orbit, which it almost never did. They had to build a much less efficient reentry platform for that purpose, and even when reusable most of the external components weren't. A conical shape like this is very cheap since it's single use, there is no reason you cant salvage internal components if you want either.

      The Russians have been using designs like this for over 50 years and their manned space program is TONS cheaper than ours, and you cant say that they cut safety corners to save money since their record over the last 20 years is FAR better.
      • The shuttle was always a boondoggle, the only reason it had the configuration it did was to return things from orbit, which it almost never did.

        Almost never did?

        • Space Hab [wikipedia.org] - 22 times.
        • Spacelab [wikipedia.org] - 22 times.
        • Hubble [wikipedia.org] servicing equipment - 5 times.
        • MPLM [wikipedia.org] - 12 times.

        There's probably more, but it's late and I'm tired. These 61 flights (out of 135) will have to do for showing just how wrong you are.

        The Russians have been using designs like this for over 50 years and their manned space program is TONS cheaper than o

        • by crazyjj (2598719) *

          It's telling that you limit it to the last twenty years - thus neatly hiding Soyuz's two fatal accidents

          Soyuz hasn't had a fatal accident since 1971. That's over *40* years, not 20.

  • Wasn't Orion de-funded?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's since been un-de-funded (at least until congress decides to anti-un-de-fund it).

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

        by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT 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 trout007 (975317)

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

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

        by Teancum (67324) <{ten.orezten} {ta} {gninroh_trebor}> 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.

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

      by 680x0 (467210) <vicky AT steeds DOT com> 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.
    • by M1FCJ (586251)

      It was, then the congresscritters of US decided that their districts are not getting enough pork so they resurrected it. It's a zombie project, not going to achieve anything but cost billions and feed the military industrial complex. While the Orion builders lobbying (or should I say it aloud, bribing), the others got their designs from scratch, launched multiple test flights and moving fast into the success column of the history books. Of course it won't be too long until the US politicians will create a l

  • 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]

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:18PM (#40521439)
    Even though SpaceX is only a candidate for the low-orbit (space station) manned program and Orion is for deep space, I would not be surprised if SpaceX does so well they are considered for deep space too.
    • 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 Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:45PM (#40521703) Homepage Journal
        It's kind of silly to take your earth-reentry equipment and fuel all of the way to Mars and back.
        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday July 02, 2012 @08:44PM (#40522941)

          It's kind of silly to take your earth-reentry equipment and fuel all of the way to Mars and back.

          The alternative is to carry enough fuel to brake into LEO before rendezvous with the reentry capsule.

          Oddly enough, the fuel required to go from Mars-Earth transition orbit to LEO is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH heavier than the capsule capable of reentry directly from that same mars-earth transition orbit.

          • Point taken. Got to get rid of that orbital transfer energy somehow. High precision and atmospheric braking on both ends. Ugh.

            You really need atomic rockets to do otherwise on a manned mission. Light sail might be fine for anything unmanned.

            • by cusco (717999)
              I've always liked the idea of a large craft in cycling orbit between the two planets, and a smaller crew transfer vehicle. The large habitat could take months/years to acquire the necessary velocity until it's in the proper orbit, while the smaller vehicle could boost from LEO at a higher acceleration to ferry the crew to the habitat. The smaller vehicle disembarks at Mars with landing party, and either after a short stay catches up to the habitat again or else waits for the next cycler orbit.

              I'm sure
      • 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."

        • by vlm (69642)

          Yeah but that doesn't really mean anything. You misspelled "ablative"... what that means is its essentially burned off as it does its thing.

          So... Compared to Chinese made oak (not kidding, supposedly they've used wood) PICA-X will be thinner and lighter. But again, a NEO shield is going to be a lot thinner and lighter than a deep space shield. Both will be lighter than if they used wood...

          Standard /. car analogy is an aluminum block is lighter than a steel block. That does not mean that a aluminum 5 lit

          • by drgould (24404)

            I'm surprised they overspec'd a NEO capsule like that. Unless the plan all along is its a deep space capsule.

            Not really. The Dragon capsule (and heat shield) is designed to be reusable.

            It's thicker and stronger so they only have to replace the heat shield every 5, 10, 20 or whatever number of flights.

  • send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s

    It's a really sad thing to run the numbers on how old I'll be by then. Life is short—and not terribly interesting.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's a really sad thing to run the numbers on how old I'll be by then. Life is short—and not terribly interesting.

      There is plenty to do here on Earth that is terribly interesting. The sad thing is that there are plenty of people with First World Problems and Internet connections who are apparently incapable of going outside and finding the cool stuff.

    • by cusco (717999)
      When I was little 1984 was supposed to be the year that NASA launched its first manned Mars mission. There should have been sustainable human habitats (possibly actual colonies) on the Moon by the end of that decade. Then the military vacuumed up every penny and every scrap of tech for itself by the middle of the '70s (including forcing the complete redesign of the Shuttle), and our hopes of a peaceful future in space for all humans died a miserable death.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They have a NASA of the 60's with a can do attitude, instead of a 'can I do more paperwork' attitude. The private companies won't be able to keep up.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:45PM (#40521699)

    Here's hoping that Orion's first mission lasts longer than that website.

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Monday July 02, 2012 @06:00PM (#40521859)

    I'm looking at you, Microsoft and NASA.

    Unless this thing rides nuclear explosions, it should have its own name.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Antipater (2053064)
      I'd rather have repeat names than annoyingly boring ones. Seriously, "Space Launch System"?! What, did we run out of deities? I mean, come on, it's a rocket similar in size and power to Saturn - why not Hyperion? It's a scaled-up version of Ares, why not Odin?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Uh, last time I checked it was a scaled DOWN version of Ares. In any case though, it's substantially the same design and comes from a long heritage of shuttle derived rockets intended to be called Ares... I really don't understand the obsession with not, at any cost, calling it Ares.

        • by jamstar7 (694492)
          Ares was supposed to take us to Mars. I wouldn't want to be stuck in this tin can for 6-18 months on a trip to Mars even with Pamela Anderson in the left seat. It's just too damned small. All this capsual is, is the Lockheed version of the Dragon, with the same design as the Apollo capsual. Deep space capable my ass.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sorry, there's only a limited amount of cool deity / constellation names..

    • by rossdee (243626)

      I thought Orion was the name of a concept ship powered by nuclear fission explosions.

      See Footfall by Niven and Pournelle

    • by slew (2918)

      I'm looking at you, Microsoft and NASA.

      Unless this thing rides nuclear explosions, it should have its own name.

      Technically, Orion (the nuke one) was a DARPA (military research) project and this Orion (SLS-MPCV) is a NASA (civilian) project. NASA isn't totally off the hook, though, the original Orion was the Constallation CEV, but this one is really mostly the same thing (and CEV never launched and is dead). I've heard whispers they revivified the name in part present the illusion that everyone was working on the same program all along and possibly to take advantage of a loophole to allow the MPCV to use any earmark

  • Upgraded Soyuz? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skywolfblue (1944674) on Monday July 02, 2012 @08:37PM (#40522897)
    ...was the thought that first came to my mind when I saw it.

    So... It takes billions of dollars to essentially make what amounts an upgraded Apollo Command Module or Soyuz Reentry Module?

    What's wrong with just using a Soyuz then?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Because Soyuz was designed for two, upgraded to three passengers. Orion will carry 4-6. Could launch a pair of Soyuz instead...
  • I wish it was the Orion project instead...
  • by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @07:10AM (#40525709)
    So we spent obscene amounts of money funding companies who time and time again have proven they can't seem to build anything for under several billion dollars and then end up cutting corners left and right leaving us with over-priced, under-specced crap? Don't get me wrong, there's a romantic spot in my heart for the space shuttle which was just too damn cool. But Orion just seems like a square peg for a round hole or vise verse.

    At the moment, there are only two real players in the commercial space game, a tourism business (which is pretty damn cool) and SpaceX who is just getting off the ground now. But in the limited time and with limited budgets they've worked with, they have accomplished substantially more in the past 10 years than the contractors involved with Orion had in the previous 30. These guys will think smarter and move things into space and then they or someone else will build long range transport craft from LEO to elsewhere as opposed to this ridiculous model where we feel we have to create a single craft which has to fly directly from earth's surface with everything it needs in one step. We already have a space station and it seems to me that we need to have another or extend the one we currently have to start storing what we need for deep space travel.Then we can work on for example a space station orbiting the moon and/or mars where we can transport what we need to build surface launch facilities for getting to and from the surface. For what Orion cost, NASA could have bough 10 Falcon 9 Heavy rockets and launched them probably 100 times.

    Lockheed, Boeing and all those guys are slow, overpriced, sleazy and generally just obsolete. If they can't compete with companies like SpaceX, they should simply get out of that business altogether. If you don't want to hop on the private space wagon, well there's always hitchhiking with the Chinese.
  • That is not a spacecraft in the same sense that this is not a car:

    http://www.mehr-khodro.com/images/601_02_WELDING_ROBOTS.jpg [mehr-khodro.com]

    It's an empty structural shell that will *become* a spacecraft in about two years when they finish it. As of now it is nothing more than bare metal. I helped build the Space Station modules when I worked at Boeing, and doing the shell is about 5% of the work.

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