STAR Center Transforms Orion Production

STAR Center Transforms Orion Production
July 15, 2021

Our new, state-of-the-art STAR Center is transforming how we build NASA’s Orion spacecraft for missions to the Moon and beyond.

The STAR Center, or Spacecraft, Test, Assembly and Resource Center, in Titusville, Florida, features a full suite of the latest digital and manufacturing technologies. Those innovations make the STAR Center one of Lockheed Martin Space’s most advanced production facilities to date.

“The STAR Center features innovative improvements to how we design, manufacture and deliver spacecraft that are emblematic of digital transformation and meet our customers’ expectations for efficiency and affordability,” Lockheed Martin Space, Executive Vice President Rick Ambrose said.

Room to Grow

The 55,000-square-foot building once housed Florida Space Camp and the Astronaut Experience (ATX) attraction where kids and adults could play astronaut. Now – as the result of an 18-month, $20 million renovation and modernization effort – we’ve transformed the facility into a cutting-edge production center for the Orion spacecraft that will take real astronauts to the Moon for NASA’s Artemis missions.

The center provides urgently needed space to expand and streamline manufacturing capacity. It will allow our teams to build, assemble and test more Orion spacecraft simultaneously.

Lockheed Martin currently assembles Orion (Artemis I & II) near the STAR Center, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) building. The center’s work will start with Orion Artemis III spacecraft, with many components already in development. 

For the Orion program, the STAR Center will provide:

  • Assembly and test of Orion aeroshell heat shield and backshell panels, including thermal protection system installation
  • Crew module and crew module adapter wire harness fabrication and testing
  • Propulsion and environmental control and life support systems assembly and testing
  • Electrical ground support equipment production
STAR Center interior

Under Lockheed Martin’s production contract with NASA, the agency has committed to order six Orion vehicles, with the potential to add another six through 2030.

“The addition of the STAR Center gives production teams more room at the O&C facility to assemble and test more Orion spacecraft simultaneously while capitalizing on the newest digital transformation tools,” said Mike Stewart, STAR Center operations manager. “We will no longer have to spend valuable time moving equipment at the O&C to make room for the increased production load.”

The center will employ 75 people initially, with the potential to add more with shift work. Currently about 360 people work on Orion at the O&C. That number could reach 400 by 2023 as production increases.

Mission-Driven Transformation at the Core

Lockheed Martin integrated business and digital transformation into the STAR Center’s design from the beginning.

The center is the latest facility connecting to our Intelligent Factory Framework (IFF), which is an edge computing platform that secures, scales and standardizes device connectivity through internet of things (IoT) practices. This will streamline production and provides agility across our production operations.

In addition, by treating data as a strategic asset, the team is actively connecting devices and machines. That interconnectivity gives team members at both the STAR Center and the O&C real-time access to valuable data to enhance efficiency, manage capacity and monitor workflows, systems and equipment. 

The STAR Center also features the active integration of the same smart tools in use at the O&C, including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tools. By utilizing smart tools, the production team is able to maximize the effectiveness of new tools across the product lifecycle.  

STAR digital transformation

Beyond Orion

This expansion of digital transformation technologies, along with our existing expertise in production and machine shop capabilities, will allow us to scale Orion spacecraft production to deliver faster and drive down costs. In addition, the STAR Center also has great potential to support spacecraft for future deep-space exploration missions.

“The facility on this property allows us to be in a position to go beyond Orion,” said Kelly DeFazio, Orion program director for production. “That's one of the reasons we named it the STAR Center and not Orion Facility West.”

The STAR Center is further strengthening Lockheed Martin’s presence on the Space Coast. “We are making our mark that we're here to stay and showing that we're strong competitors who are creating efficiencies and agility here at the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center,” DeFazio said.

STAR Center interior opposite

The facility features:

  • Class 7 clean room for spacecraft component assembly
  • Proof pressure cell for spaceflight readiness testing
  • 9,000-square-foot high bay with ceiling crane
  • Non-destructive evaluation and inspection capability, which allows team members to test and analyze materials, parts, structures or systems without damaging the original component
  • A newly built, separate machine shop