Lockheed Martin Starts Building Orion Spaceship to Take Us to the Moon and Beyond
Giant aerospace, weapons, tech, defense and security manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced today that it has begun construction on a spaceship that they say will fulfill our president's goal of returning astronauts to the moon.
The first two components for their Orion crew module capsule were welded together by technicians and engineers at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans for what they're calling Exploration Mission-2. This crew module capsule will facilitate Orion's first-ever manned flight, allowing us to travel further into our solar system than ever before. Lockheed Martin hopes that this Orion mission will lay the appropriate groundwork for NASA's lunar deep space gateway, and eventually, manned missions to Mars.
Lockheed Martin is simultaneously finishing assembly of its EM-1 Orion spacecraft in Florida while working on this EM-2 capsule "This is not only the most advanced spacecraft ever built, its production will be more efficient than any previous capsule," said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin vice president and program manager for Orion. "For example, Hawes mentioned the pressure vessel on the EM-2 pressure vessel, which is 30 percent lighter and has 80 percent fewer parts than the first one they built. "That equates to a substantially more cost-effective and capable spacecraft," he added.
The pressure vessel is the main structure of the crew module, consisting of "seven large machined aluminum alloy pieces that are welded together to produce a strong, yet light-weight, air-tight capsule. The first weld joined the forward bulkhead with the tunnel section to create the top of the spacecraft." The EM-2 pressure vessel will continue to be built at Michoud, and still needs three cone panels, the large barrel and a rear bulkhead.
While the team is proud that they've managed to streamline the pressure vessel process and make the EM-2 machine much more efficiently than the EM-1, it's the promise of getting Americans back on the moon that motivates them most. "Each of these spacecraft are important, but we realize that the EM-2 capsule is special as it's the first one to carry astronauts back out to the Moon, something we haven't done in a long time," Anderson says. "It's something we think about every day."
Lockheed Martin is among the six companies that have been inducted into NASA's NextSTEP program,entering into a public-private partnership with NASA to develop tech that ranges from deep-space exploration capsules to habitation facilities that can act as staging points for missions beyond the moon.