Lockheed Martin has been working overtime to get the Orion spacecraft ready for its first mission, which officials say could be as early as 2013, depending on Congress’ final decision for NASA’s future and budget. Tools and procedures are being checked out to see that they work as advertised for both the spacecraft as well as assembly procedures and manufacturing for building future capsules.
The Orion spacecraft will be assembled and integrated on site in the Operations & Checkout (O & C) building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. By doing this, both time and money can be saved as it will cut down on transportation costs and logistical issues.
“The unique benefit of this complete on-site operation is that we will build the spacecraft and then move it directly onto the launch vehicle at KSC, which saves the government transportation costs associated with tests and checkout prior to launch,” said Lockheed Martin Orion Deputy Program Manager for production operations Richard Harris. “This capability also facilitates the KSC workforce transition efforts by providing new job opportunities for those employees completing their shuttle program assignments.”
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The current plan calls for Orion to serve to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and perhaps an eventual mission beyond low-Earth-orbit (LEO), but Orion’s future rests with Congress’ upcoming decision on NASA’s future budget. The House Science and Technology Committee announced Thursday a compromise between the House and Senate versions of NASA’s budget, but it is unclear when a final vote may take place.
In the meantime, the O & C building has been transformed in the past couple years into what is being called “the space factory of the future.” This was accomplished by the combined effort of both Lockheed Martin as well as Space Florida, the state’s aerospace development organization. The work was done to create a state-of-the-art facility for spacecraft production and innovation.
Changes made to the O&C include 90,000 square feet of air-bearing floor space, paperless work stations, a portable clean room system, and specialized lifting/lowering/ support tools designed by United Space Alliance (USA). Specially designed air-bearing pallets will allow a small crew to maneuver hardware across the floor. The building renovation also incorporates energy-saving electrical systems which will help to further lower costs.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the Orion Project and heads the team that includes numerous subcontractors and small businesses working at facilities in 28 states. Additionally, the program works with more than 500 small businesses across the U.S. to provide the needed supplies that make the Orion Project a reality.
Source: Lockheed Martin