(AP) — Lockheed Martin Corp. on Monday showed off a test version of the
Orion spacecraft, which was initially meant to return humans to the
moon but may wind up being an escape vehicle for the International Space
Station or taking astronauts beyond Earth orbit.
company also unveiled a cavernous test facility at its Waterton Canyon
site south of Denver, where full-size mock-ups of the space station and
the front section of the Orion can be used to practice docking
was originally part of President George W. Bush’s $100 billion moon
mission, called Constellation. President Barack Obama canceled
Constellation last year, saying the space program would instead focus on
more advanced rocket technology.
revived the Orion portion of the project two months later, with
administration officials saying it would be the space station’s escape
is now considering at least two roles for future manned spacecraft,
including servicing the space station in low Earth orbit and going on
longer, more distant missions.
is going to evolve from what it was under the previous Constellation
program into what it needs to become as part of the multipurpose crew
vehicle,” NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said.
Martin officials were more ambitious Monday, touting Orion as America’s
next generation spacecraft that could first explore the far side of the
moon then land humans on asteroids and eventually take them to one of
the moons of Mars, where they could control robotic instruments on the
includes a module for crew and cargo, a service module for propulsion,
electrical power and other requirements, and a launch-abort system to
carry the capsule to safety if the booster rocket fails. NASA
successfully tested the launch-abort system two weeks ago at White Sands
Missile Range, N.M.
Martin is NASA’s prime contractor for the Orion project. The company
said it built the $35 million, 41,000-square-foot (3,809-square-meter)
test facility, called the Space Operations Simulation Center, at company
first Orion capsule is being assembled in another building at Lockheed
Martin’s Waterton Canyon site. It will be used for ground testing and
could possibly be launched into a suborbital test flight, said James
Bray, Lockheed’s crew and service module director.
said the test results will be used in the engineering of the first
Orion capsule to fly in space. Work on that capsule is expected to start
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
first orbital space flight of an Orion capsule is expected in 2013,
said John Karas, vice president and general manager for human space
flight for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.
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.
“The White House and the Congress both recognize the importance of this program,” Perlmutter said.
Lockheed Martin employs nearly 10,000 people in Colorado.