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Orion Status Updates

May 2014
World’s Largest Heat Shield Successfully Attached to the Orion Spacecraft

The world’s largest heat shield, measuring 16.5 feet in diameter, has been successfully attached to the Orion spacecraft. The heat shield installation marks one of the final steps in the spacecraft's assembly leading up to its first test flight, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), later this year. The heat shield is made from a single seamless piece of Avcoat™ ablator. It will be tested on Orion’s first flight as it protects the spacecraft from temperatures reaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and an ocean splashdown following Orion's 20,000 mph reentry from space.

Photo: NASA


April 7, 2014
Orion Avionics System Ready for First Test Flight

Testing of the Orion spacecraft’s avionics system has concluded. After powering on and sending commands to more than 20 different critical systems installed on the spacecraft’s crew module, NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers have verified the avionics for Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) are ready to support a successful flight and re-entry of the spacecraft.

Following the initial power on of the Vehicle Main Computer in October, engineers have since methodically installed additional harnessing, wiring and electronics onto the crew module—completing the avionics system that serves as the eyes, ears and brains of the spacecraft. During these tests, engineers one-by-one activated and sent commands to the pyrotechnics, batteries, thermal control, cameras, guidance and navigation, propulsion, and environmental control life support systems, all while evaluating signal quality, on-board system responses, and data production.


March 26, 2014
Finalists Announced for Orion’s Exploration Design Challenge

Judges from Lockheed Martin, NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) have selected five teams from high schools in California, Illinois, Kansas, Utah and Virginia as finalists in the Exploration Design Challenge (EDC). The winning team will be announced in April at the United States Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., and will have their radiation experiment flown on Orion’s first test flight, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1).

U.S. high school students competing in the challenge designed an experiment to protect a dosimeter, an instrument used for measuring radiation exposure, as Orion flies through the Van Allen Belt during EFT-1. The Van Allen Belt is a dense radiation field that surrounds the Earth in a protective shell of electrically charged ions. Understanding and mitigating radiation exposure during Orion’s test flight can help scientists develop protective solutions before the first crewed, long-duration spaceflight.


December 19, 2013
Forward Bay Cover Test

The first test to ensure Orion will successfully jettison its Forward Bay Cover (FBC) was successful. The FBC used a flight-like gas thruster separation system, and simulated parachute loads, to jettison from a Crew Module (CM) forward bay simulator.

The FBC protects the top portion of the Crew Module during launch, orbital flight, and re-entry. It is jettisoned at an altitude of approximately 23,000 feet to allow for deployment of the parachute system.

Since jettison of the cover is a complex event required for subsequent deployment of the main parachutes, deceleration of the vehicle, and landing the crew safely, it is considered one of the top risk drivers. This test provides critical verification data, and is a significant risk reduction for the program.

This test will be followed by two more ground jettison tests and two air-drop tests. These tests will play a key role in system validation prior to Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014.


December 4, 2013
Orion Heat Shield Ships to Kennedy Space Center

The Orion heat shield was delivered to Kennedy Space Center from Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington, Mass. The heat shield, designed to protect the spacecraft and crew from the extreme temperatures during a high-speed re-entry and the impact of a splashdown, flew aboard a “Super Guppy” aircraft from Manchester, NH Airport, to Kennedy Space Center.  The 16.5 foot diameter, titanium structure-supported heat shield was fabricated by Lockheed Martin in Denver. Textron Defense Systems, outside Boston, covered the shield’s outer surface with Avcoat™, an ablative material system used on the Apollo spacecraft. In March of 2014, the heat shield will be fastened onto the bottom of the Orion crew module.


November 7, 2013
Lockheed Martin Team Tests Orion’s Protective Panels

Testing at the Lockheed Martin Sunnyvale facility in California using a series of precisely-timed, explosive charges and mechanisms, proved the Orion spacecraft can successfully jettison its protective fairing panels.

The Orion spacecraft has three fairings that protect the service module radiators and solar arrays from heat, wind and acoustics during ascent. This test was the second in a series of fairing separation tests—this time adding a thermal element. Engineers used strip heaters to heat one of the fairings to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, simulating the temperature the spacecraft will experience during its climb to orbit. 

The testing revealed there was a successful separation of all three fairings while under flight-like thermal and structural conditions. The separation velocity and trajectory of each panel were within the Lockheed Martin predicted tolerances. The test data provides a high level of confidence that the panels will jettison as expected during the launch vehicle ascent. Read More


October 28, 2013
Lockheed Martin Powers up Orion Crew Module

For the first time engineers powered on the Orion crew module at Kennedy Space Center. The test successfully demonstrated the crew module avionics were integrated properly and are in good health. This critical milestone brings together hundreds of separate electronic elements that have been designed, built, and tested by dozens of companies across the country involved in the Orion program. The crew module power systems will continue to undergo testing for six months as additional electronics are added to the spacecraft.

About one year from now, Orion will complete its first mission. Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) will launch an uncrewed spacecraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center 3,600 miles beyond low Earth orbit. That same day, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of approximately 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. EFT-1 will provide engineers with critical data about Orion's heat shield, flight systems and capabilities to validate designs of the spacecraft before it begins carrying humans to new destinations in the solar system. Read More


August 15, 2013
Orion Recovery Testing

The Orion test capsule recently underwent stationary recovery testing in Norfolk, Va. NASA and the U.S Navy led the tests using the USS Arlington. These stationary recovery tests allow the teams to demonstrate and evaluate the recovery processes, the hardware and the test personnel in a controlled environment.

During the test, the U.S Navy Dive Team checked the capsule for hazards while sailors from the USS Arlington approached the capsule in inflatable boats, and towed it back to the ship’s flooded well deck.

A second test will be conducted next year in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo credit: NASA


June 6, 2013
Orion Crew Module Passes Static Load Tests

During Orion’s Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) slated for September 2014, Orion will fly about 3,600 miles above Earth's surface and return at speeds of approximately 25,000 mph. As a result, Orion will experience an array of stresses, or loads, and dynamic events that will jettison hardware away from the spacecraft.

To ensure Orion can handle these spaceflight stresses, engineers at the Kennedy Space Center set up tests that slowly push or pull the vehicle, simulating different types of loads Orion will experience. The crew module was also pressurized to simulate the effect of the vacuum in space.

During these tests Orion was successfully pressurized to 110 percent of what it would experience in space.  The tests also allowed engineers to verify repairs made to cracks in the vehicle's rear bulkhead caused by previous pressure testing in November. The November test revealed insufficient margin in an area of the bulkhead that was unable to withstand the stress of pressurization. Armed with data from that test, engineers were able to reinforce the design to ensure structural integrity and validate the fix during this week's test. Read More

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett


March 25, 2013
Massive Orion Heat Shield Ships from Denver to Massachusetts

An important component for NASA’s next-generation spacecraft being developed to carry astronauts into deep space, and ensure their safe return, was recently sent across the country for final processing. 

The heat shield for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, designed to protect the spacecraft and crew from the extreme temperatures during a high-speed re-entry and the impact of a splashdown, flew aboard a wide-bodied B-377-SG/SGT “Super Guppy” aircraft from Buckley AFB, near Denver, to Hanscom AFB, near Boston March 25 and 26.  The 16.5 foot diameter, titanium structure-supported heat shield was fabricated by Lockheed Martin in Denver. Textron Defense Systems, outside Boston, will cover the shield’s outer surface with Avcoat, an ablative material system used on the Apollo spacecraft.  This will be the final touch to the shield before it is shipped to Cape Canaveral, Fla., where it will be fastened onto the bottom of the waiting Orion capsule.

Orion’s heat shield is designed to protect the capsule and its astronauts during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere following future long-duration, deep-space missions to destinations such as the moon, asteroids and eventually Mars.  Returning to Earth, Orion could reach speeds greater than 25,000 mph. and the heat shield must help keep the vehicle and crew safe from external temperatures of nearly 5,000°F.  In addition to providing thermal protection, the heat shield would help to protect the crew and spacecraft from the impact of a more than 40 mph water landing in the Pacific Ocean. 


March 11, 2013
NASA And Lockheed Martin Launch Exploration Design Challenge For Students

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade will have the opportunity to play a unique role in the future of human spaceflight through participation in NASA’s Exploration Design Challenge. Developed through a partnership between NASA and Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT], the program challenges students to research and design solutions to protect astronauts from space radiation.

“Space exploration has inspired and fascinated young people for generations, and the Exploration Design Challenge is a unique way to capture and engage the imaginations of tomorrow’s engineers and scientists,” said Marillyn Hewson, CEO and President of Lockheed Martin, speaking at an announcement event today at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We know nothing teaches like real hands-on experience and that’s what this program brings to a new generation of explorers.” Read More



July 2, 2012
Lockheed Martin Delivers Orion Spacecraft To NASA Kennedy Space Center

Lockheed Martin has delivered the first space-bound Orion spacecraft crew module structure to the Operations and Checkout Building on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The crew module structure recently underwent its final friction stir weld at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. and was transported to KSC last week to be readied for its Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) in 2014. More


April 23, 2012
Orion: On the Production Path

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle arrived at the Operation & Checkout (O&C) Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Saturday, April 21. The vehicle traveled more than 1,800 miles from Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver where it successfully completed a series of rigorous tests that simulated launch and spaceflight environments.

The ground test vehicle will now be used for pathfinding operations at the O&C in preparation for the Orion spaceflight test vehicle's arrival this summer. The spaceflight vehicle is currently being fabricated at NASA’s MIchoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and is slated for NASA’s Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) in 2014. The Orion team is nearing completion of welds on the Orion flight test crew module using the innovative self-reacting friction stir weld process created collaboratively by NASA and Lockheed Martin.

Orion Test Version at KSC -- A test version of Orion arrived at KSC’s Operations & Checkout Facility on April 21, 2012. This test model will be used for ground operations practice in advance of Exploration Flight Test-1, scheduled for 2014. Photo credit: NASA

Orion --  the nation’s first interplanetary spacecraft for human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit -- will be fully assembled and integrated on site at KSC, a new capability that provides significant time and cost savings. The O&C’s 90,000 square feet of air-bearing floor space and specially designed air-bearing pallets enable a small crew to effortlessly maneuver spacecraft across the factory floor. Click here to view a production operation demonstration.

After pathfinding operations are completed, new backshell panels will be installed on the ground test vehicle at the O&C prior to the vehicle’s trek to Langley Research Center in Virginia for splash down testing at NASA's Hydro Impact Basin. Click here to see what the Orion ground test vehicle looks like after the backshell panels are applied to the structure.


March 8, 2012

Lockheed Martin engineers across the country are ramping up production operations on the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s first orbital flight test beyond low Earth orbit since the 1960s. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is the nation’s next generation spacecraft that will enable human interplanetary space exploration to destinations such as the moon, asteroids and eventually Mars.

Slated for 2014, the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) will evaluate the vital capabilities needed for safe deep space exploration to reduce the overall risk for Orion’s first human-rated flight. The test will enable the team to collect early critical flight performance data and assess the integration benefits for the Orion, Space Launch System and Ground Systems Development and Operations programs. Major components of the Orion spacecraft include the Crew Module, the Service Module, the Spacecraft Adapter and the Launch Abort System. The spacecraft will be launched by a Delta IV Heavy for the 2014 uncrewed flight test and by the Space Launch System (SLS) for the fully integrated flight test in 2017.

“In February, our nation celebrated 50 years of human space flight and all of the amazing accomplishments we have achieved since John Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 flight,” said John Karas, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager for Human Space Flight. “Lockheed Martin’s space launch systems safely placed man into orbit 50 years ago and we are proud to be NASA’s partner as we continue supporting such noble endeavors for decades to come.

“Orion is one of our nation’s most important space priorities identified by NASA, the Administration and Congress and with the new Space Launch System, Orion will forge the path of exploration to destinations humans have never before explored. These missions will undoubtedly change the way we see the universe and generate a myriad of new scientific discoveries,” added Karas.

The first steps in preparing Orion for missions beyond Earth orbit are now underway at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.  The Orion team is nearing completion of welds on the Orion crew module, using an innovative self-reacting friction stir weld process created collaboratively by NASA and Lockheed Martin. After completion of weld operations later this spring, the Orion spacecraft will be transferred to Kennedy Space Center’s Operations & Checkout Facility for continued processing through final assembly and testing prior to launch.

At Lockheed Martin’s Waterton facility near Denver, the Orion team completed a series of acoustic, modal and vibration tests that verified the spacecraft’s ability to withstand the extreme acoustic forces and vibrations the vehicle will experience during a launch or an emergency abort. These tests were conducted on the ground test vehicle, which consists of two major components of the Orion spacecraft: the crew module and the launch abort system. Built to spaceflight specifications, this was the first full-scale spacecraft built and pressure tested by the Lockheed Martin team to support the development of the human space flight vehicle. The ground test vehicle is the “workhorse” for environmental testing that provides critical data to define the spacecraft’s capabilities needed for long-duration, deep space missions.

At Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Mission Control Center team is leveraging the existing assets of the Shuttle Flight Control Room as well as the flight team’s expertise to reduce cost and risk for EFT-1. The team created a new blended staffing model with Lockheed Martin and NASA Mission Operations Directorate personnel who have already begun running software integration and network operations in preparation for the flight test.

Lockheed Martin’s Orion teammate in Utah, ATK, has begun preparing the inert launch abort system that was tested at Waterton. Modifications will include outfitting and systems integration work for EFT-1. The launch abort system was successfully tested during its Pad Abort-1 flight test and will be flown on EFT-1 to test its nominal staging capability. This system will undergo more rigorous testing during an Ascent Abort test in 2015 during which the system will simulate an aborted mission mid-flight at maximum loads or Max Q.

At Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Orion thermal tile production is in progress and spacecraft production operations have ramped up in the Operations & Checkout Facility where as many as 400 members of the Orion team will work on final assembly and integration operations prior to launch. New service module and fairing tooling is being installed this month, while harness fabrication work is currently underway. In addition, the lifting/lower fixture that has been supporting ground test vehicle work in Denver is now being reassembled on the factory floor in preparation for the spaceflight vehicle’s arrival this spring.

See the latest Orion progress in NASA’s new video:   Orion: From Factory to Flight


October 21, 2011
NASA Astronauts Observe Orion Tests In Progress At Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Facility

NASA astronauts joined the Lockheed Martin Orion team to observe a series of Orion spacecraft tests underway at the Waterton Facility near Denver. Michael Barratt, M.D., Deputy Chief of the NASA Astronaut Office; Col. James Dutton, NASA Astronaut & Exploration Branch Chief; Nicholas Patrick, Ph.D., NASA Astronaut & Astronaut Office Orion Rep; Col. Terry Virts, NASA Astronaut; and Lt. Col. Jon Bulseco, NASA/JSC Astronaut Office visited with Orion engineers and program managers to learn more about the spacecraft’s capabilities and see firsthand how well the test program is progressing.

The crew members first observed the five-story-tall Orion ground test vehicle in the launch configuration undergo an acoustic test in Lockheed Martin’s Reverberant Acoustic Laboratory. During the test, the Orion crew module and its launch abort system were exposed to acoustic levels of 150 dB, while hundreds of instruments recorded the vehicle’s response to the freight-train like sounds and vibrations, which Patrick said reminded him of the sounds they hear on the launch pad.

According to Lockheed Martin ground test vehicle lead engineer Karen Fergason, “the team will be analyzing the data collected through various layers of the spacecraft from the exterior fairings and ogive panels to the interior of the crew module.”

Following the Orion acoustic test, the astronauts toured Lockheed Martin’s Space Operations Simulation Center (SOSC) and viewed a demonstration of the recent STORMM test that took place on STS-134, one of the last shuttle missions. The test for STORRM (Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation) successfully demonstrated the center’s ability to replicate on-orbit conditions that affect relative navigation, lighting and motion control in space -- providing a simulated space dynamics and lighting environment on Earth that is unparalleled in the space industry. “The SOSC was very impressive,” said Barratt. “Our visit was a great opportunity to learn about the test facilities and capabilities in person.”

The crew’s final stop was at the Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory (CHIL), an advanced technology virtual reality and simulation laboratory that offers a smarter, lower cost and lower risk opportunity in building space systems, including satellites, exploration spacecraft, launch vehicles and missile defense systems. The facility team demonstrated Orion research and development work being performed in the lab that enables virtual creation of subsystem layout before the physical creation on the spacecraft.

Patrick summed up the test facility tour exclaiming “The whole experience today made me extremely optimistic about the future of human space flight.”

September 9, 2011
Fabrication Under Way On Next Orion MPCV Spaceflight Vehicle

Spinning at over a hundred rotations per minute, the spindle on the Universal Weld Machine at the Michoud Assembly Facility welded the aluminum-lithium alloy into one seamless piece to create the first weld on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. Lockheed Martin utilizes this self-reacting friction stir weld process to create a seamless, leak-proof bond that yields superior results and is stronger and higher in quality than conventional welding. It is a manufacturing approach that results in high quality, repeatable welds that contribute to the long-term affordability of a human exploration spacecraft that must withstand the harshest environments of a deep space mission. The Orion spaceflight vehicle is slated to launch into orbit in 2013.

This first weld milestone was completed on schedule through the dedicated and coordinated efforts of NASA, Lockheed Martin, and Orion suppliers AMRO Fabricating Corporation and Arcata Associates, Inc. Previous design and development efforts on Orion test spacecraft provided valuable lessons learned for fabricating the Orion spaceflight vehicle. The Orion weld processes have yielded outstanding weld quality and significant schedule savings. After completion of weld operations at Michoud, the Orion spacecraft will be sent to Kennedy Space Center’s Operations & Checkout Facility for thermal protection backshell and tile installation prior to final assembly and checkout for the 2013 orbital flight test.

Click here for more photos and information on NASA’s Web site.

August. 31, 2011
Acoustic Tests Verify Orion’s Sound Engineering

Lockheed Martin engineers have successfully completed the first of a series of acoustic tests on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) ground test vehicle, which consists of two major components of the Orion spacecraft: the crew module and the launch abort system. Built to spaceflight specifications, the Orion MPCV ground test vehicle is the first full-scale spacecraft built by the Lockheed Martin team to support the development of the final human space flight vehicle, which is slated for its first orbital flight test in about two years.

More than 600 instruments, 500 accelerometers and 100 microphones were placed throughout the Orion crew module/launch abort system stack to test critical components of the spacecraft such as avionics, propulsion and crew life support. This ground test vehicle will serve as the “workhorse” for environmental testing that provides critical data to define the spacecraft’s capabilities needed for long-duration, deep space missions.

The series of tests being conducted at Lockheed Martin’s Reverberant Acoustic Laboratory near Denver, Colorado, expose the spacecraft to acoustic forces as high as 150 decibels -- the sound energy a human would experience standing about 50 yards from a jet aircraft. The sound pressure tests last only a few minutes in length and are completed incrementally to allow the engineers to isolate and understand the behavior of each of the major components of the vehicle.

After the acoustic test series concludes, the spacecraft will remain in the chamber for modal survey testing in which vibrating stingers will be applied to the spacecraft structure to measure responses to simulated launch environments. The acoustic and modal tests will verify the spacecraft can withstand the extreme noise and vibration the vehicle will experience during a launch or an emergency abort.

Following the testing in Denver, the Orion MPCV ground test vehicle will be transported to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where it will undergo a series of drop tests to analyze system performance during a variety of simulated landing trajectories and sea states.

NASA’s fleet of Orion spacecraft will be manufactured at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, then sent to the Operations & Checkout Facility at Kennedy Space Center for final assembly and integration prior to launch. The major components of the Orion spacecraft include the Crew Module, the Service Module, the Spacecraft Adapter and the Launch Abort System.

Click here for more detailed information about the spacecraft components.

Orion Test Structure Stats:
Orion MPCV Crew Module Height: 11 feet
Launch Abort System Tower Height: 44 feet
Mated Orion MPCV/LAS Stack: 53 feet
Test Fixture Height: 11 feet tall, total stack has clearance of 4 feet in the chamber
Reverberant Acoustic Test Chamber Height: 68 feet


June, 22, 2011
Orion MPCV Update
Community leaders and museum members gathered at the Pima Air & Space Museum to welcome the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle team to Tucson, Arizona today. NASA and Lockheed Martin are in the process of moving the Pad Abort 1 flight test crew module from Dryden Flight Research Center in California to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The team will make stops at museums located along the route to give the public an opportunity to see the spacecraft up close.

This crew module was flown during the Pad Abort 1 flight test that took place at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last year. The flawless flight test validated the performance of Orion’s new launch abort system, which propelled the spacecraft off the launch pad to a speed of almost 445 mph in three seconds. The spacecraft then parachuted safely to the desert floor, landing in pristine condition.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor to NASA to design and build the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which has been designated as NASA’s next generation spacecraft for future deep space exploration.

The crew module flight test vehicle is scheduled to make two additional stops on June 19-20 at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas; and June 24-25 at the Tallahassee Challenger Learning Center in Florida. The crew module also will be on display June 29-July 4 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.   Schedules may vary slightly depending on traffic and weather conditions along the route, so check with each of the host sites for updates at those locations. The crew module will eventually be moved into Kennedy Space Center's Operations and Checkout Facility in Florida.

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle's propulsion, life support, thermal protection and avionics systems ultimately will enable astronauts to travel for extended deep space missions and return safely to Earth.

The public can contact each of the sites directly for more information about seeing the spacecraft and hours of operation.

More photos from the Pima Air & Space Museum event can be seen at:

April 25, 2011
Orion Team Prepares for STORRM

NASA astronauts aboard STS-134 will conduct the first on-orbit test of Orion’s new docking navigation sensor during the Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation (STORRM). This flight test will demonstrate the capability of the first U.S. developed, highly-reliable navigation sensor called a Vision Navigation Sensor (VNS).

This system was designed expressly for America's next-generation spacecraft, the Orion crew exploration vehicle, and other vehicles that will require safe approach and docking maneuvers with other spacecraft. It also can be used to support spacecraft landing capability on asteroids and planetary surfaces.

STORRM is a collaborative technology development effort led by the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Project Office at NASA Johnson Space Center in partnership with NASA Langley Research Center, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, and Ball Aerospace & Technologies.

The final phase of the test is planned to occur the day of Endeavour’s undocking from the International Space Station. The test will begin a little more than an hour after the shuttle undocks, with re-rendezvous scheduled for four hours after undocking. For more information on Endeavour’s timeline for undocking and the mission itself, please visit

Video: STORRM Project Video

Images: Orion Image Gallery

March 21, 2011
Lockheed Martin Makes Strides in Human Space Exploration

First Orion Spacecraft, Space Operations Simulation Center Progressing Steadily at Denver Facilities

Forging a new path forward to ensure safe, affordable and sustainable human exploration beyond low Earth orbit, Lockheed Martin unveiled the first Orion spacecraft and a spacious state-of-the-art Space Operations Simulation Center (SOSC). These two major projects, located at Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Facility near Denver, Colo., showcase the NASA-industry teams’ progress for human space flight, the Orion Project and NASA’s Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

The spacecraft will undergo rigorous testing in Denver to validate Orion’s ability to endure the harsh environments of deep space. The Orion crew exploration vehicle is on schedule to conduct its first orbital flight test as early as 2013 and provide initial operational flights by 2016 as required by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. More

Video:  A New Era of Exploration

February 21, 2011
Lockheed Martin Statement on FY2012 Budget

NASA’s FY2012 budget proposed by the President to Congress calls for development of a crew capsule and heavy lift rocket that will carry explorers beyond low Earth orbit. This is an important step in implementing the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by the President in October 2010.

As NASA’s partner in the development of the Orion crew exploration vehicle, Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] supports the Administration and Congress as they work together to fully fund the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and Space Launch System (SLS) as directed in the Authorization Act.

Orion was designed from program inception to serve as the nation’s next generation spacecraft to take humans beyond low Earth orbit to multiple destinations throughout our solar system. The vehicle provides the most affordable, sustainable path forward supporting America’s deep space exploration objectives to maintain U.S. global leadership. Orion meets the requirements defined for the MPCV in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which puts the program on a clear path forward to achieve an orbital flight test in 2013 and crewed operations by 2016 when NASA provides the direction to do so.

The first Orion crew module has been completed using breakthrough friction stir welding techniques and will soon be integrated with the largest heat shield structure ever fabricated and its thermal protection backshell. Pressing forward toward a first flight in 2013, Orion will undergo rigorous evaluations in flight-like environments, including acoustic and vibration testing in Denver and a series of drop tests at NASA Langley Research Center’s new hydro impact basin.

The Orion team has made considerable progress with a flawless flight test of its launch abort system ensuring astronaut safety, demonstration of an innovative navigation and docking system to be tested aboard the upcoming Space Shuttle mission STS-134, and validation of Orion’s assembly and production operations in the “Spacecraft Factory of the Future” at Kennedy Space Center. This progress is proof that our nation’s strong, viable space industry can move the United States expeditiously into the future.

The Orion multi-mission spacecraft, together with development of a new Space Launch System, continues to receive strong bi-partisan support from Congress. Lockheed Martin remains committed to making excellent progress on Orion and working collaboratively with NASA in support of our nation’s future human space exploration endeavors.

Media Contacts:
Linda Singleton 832-526-8089 or 281-283-4219 or

Marion LaNasa 303-971-8910 or 303 931-9003 or

February 10, 2011
Lockheed Martin Ships Out First Orion Spacecraft

The Lockheed Martin Orion team shipped out the first Orion crew module spacecraft structure from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. The spacecraft is headed to Lockheed Martin’s Denver, Colo., facilities where it will undergo a series of rigorous tests to confirm Orion’s ability to safely fly astronauts through all the harsh environments of deep space exploration missions.

Soon after the spacecraft arrives in Denver, it will be integrated with the heat shield and thermal protection backshell before undergoing environmental testing. This crew module will also go through a series of simulated landing scenarios at Langley’s new Hydro Impact Basin. The Langley facility will be used to test, validate and certify water landings for all human-rated spacecraft for NASA. More

Video: NASA Orion Program Video

August 31, 2011
Lockheed Martin Orion Team Performed Well Under Pressure

The Lockheed Martin Orion team performed well under pressure as the first Orion spacecraft successfully passed a structural proof pressure test at the NASA/Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La., on Aug. 30, 2010, paving the way for future tests prior to space flight. This Orion spacecraft will be used for ground and flight test operations to correlate test data with analytical models to validate Orion’s flight design engineering.

 Built to spaceflight specifications, the vehicle completed an important series of leak and proof pressure tests that confirmed Orion’s structural design can withstand long-duration missions. The test incrementally pressurized the spacecraft with breathing air up to 15.55 pounds per square inch – or 1.05 atmospheres -- which is the equivalent pressure a scuba diver’s gauge would read at a 35-foot depth.

The successful tests demonstrated a leak-free structure fabricated using self-reacting friction stir welding techniques, a technology that produces stronger and higher quality joints when compared with conventional welding. The pressurization test demonstrated weld strength capability, and advanced aluminum-lithium alloy structural performance at maximum flight operating pressures, making this structure survivable in the harshest environments of space. Test engineers monitored and collected data from 600 channels of instrumentation to support margin assessments and confirm design accuracy.

Successful test completion allows the hardware to advance to subsystem assembly and integration. Following additional testing in 2010, the assembled crew module will be mated to the launch abort system to undergo ground tests in flight-like environments in 2011.

All testing was accomplished at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility, leveraging advanced technology and a diverse workforce experienced in all of NASA’s human spaceflight programs. Recent engineering graduates supporting the Lockheed Martin team gained hands-on experience by designing elements of the successfully tested Orion spacecraft.

For more background information about Michoud’s work on the Orion spacecraft, go to:

July 26, 2010
Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin Demonstrate New Docking System Technology

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company and NASA conducted a successful technology demonstration of an inventive navigation system that will make docking operations safer and easier for spacecraft flying to the International Space Station (ISS).

  • Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company and NASA conducted a successful technology demonstration of an inventive navigation system that will make docking operations safer and easier for spacecraft flying to the International Space Station (ISS). 
  • Docking navigation system prototype was developed collaboratively by NASA, Ball and Lockheed Martin and will be tested by astronauts aboard STS-134 in an unprecedented on-orbit maneuver during the space shuttle mission to the ISS in February 2011.
  • Orion is at the peak of its development phase, which has spurred several new technologies and innovations in composites, structures, thermal protection systems, avionics and navigation systems
  • “This innovative technology enhances the Orion team’s ability to significantly improve crew safety for human space flight,” said Larry Price, Orion deputy program manager for Lockheed Martin. “Once proven successful on orbit, this system will enable us to continue on our path forward to safely fly Orion in 2013.” More

July 6, 2010
Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Passes Key NASA Milestone

  • Completed Phase 1 Safety Review of NASA’s Human Rating Requirements for space exploration in low Earth orbit and beyond.

  • The safety review process is a rigorous and exhaustive look at the design and operational concepts to assure that all requirements have been adequately met.

  • “Completing this significant safety review puts Orion well down the road in satisfying the requirements to minimize the nation’s gap in human space flight,” said Paul Benfield, Lockheed Martin Integrated Reliability & Safety Manager for the Orion Program. More

Video: NASA and Lockheed Martin successfully flight tested the Orion spacecraft launch abort system (LAS) for the Pad Abort-1 test at White Sands Missile Range on May 6, 2010. As the prime contractor to NASA for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, Lockheed Martin, led the industry teams development effort on this new system that will significantly improve crew safety for future human space flight.