Orion’s Critical Design Review an important milestone toward Exploration Mission-1

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NASA hopes to conduct the first uncrewed flight of SLS as early as 2018. Image Credit: NASA

After the completion of Orion’s Critical Design Review (CDR) in October, the spacecraft is one important step closer toward the upcoming Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), scheduled to take place in 2018. It means that Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor building Orion, can now focus on full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and tests of the spacecraft.

“It means that the program is on track to complete the spacecraft’s development to meet NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 performance requirements,” Allison Rakes, Lockheed Martin spokesperson, told astrowatch.net.

The EM-1 flight will see Orion spacecraft being launched by NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) for the first time. The mission will last 20 days. Orion will be sent into a lunar distant retrograde orbit. It is a wide orbit around the Moon, farther from Earth than any human-rated spacecraft has ever traveled. EM-1 will clear the path for future crewed Orion missions.

The CDR included a review of common aspects of the spacecraft for EM-1 such as the spacecraft’s structures, pyrotechnics, launch abort system, guidance, navigation and control, and software, among many other elements. The evaluation lasted 10 weeks.

“Over about three months, Orion’s products are reviewed, actions are written, and the spacecraft’s design is scrutinized in detail to ensure it meets requirements and the system is ready for assembly and test. The CDR process has approximately a dozen and a half reviews comprising all of the sub-systems and functional areas of the spacecraft,” Rakes revealed.

The complete CDR process will conclude after the European Service Module CDR and a presentation to the NASA Agency Program Management Council in the spring. Lockheed Martin is currently wrapping up a very busy year of crucial activities related to Orion’s development.

“This year we’re doing design analysis and reviews, building and welding primary structures, performing baseline cost and schedule assessments, and testing for integration with the SLS rocket and the European Service Module,” Rakes said.

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