WASHINGTON — As Lockheed Martin gets to work designing NASA’s next manned spacecraft, the Bethesda, Md., firm’s choice of industry teammates ensures that the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) will be a nationwide effort.
By assigning Orion work to nine of its regional field centers, NASA already had given a stake in the project to seven states: Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Texas and Virginia. By picking Lockheed Martin and its roster of major subcontractors Sept. 1 to design and build Orion, NASA added at least six more states to the mix: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota and Utah.
Lockheed Martin is locating its Orion program management office in Houston, where the majority of the company’s CEV engineers will work alongside their NASA counterparts at Johnson Space Center designing the crewed capsule the U.S. space agency expects to have in service no later than 2014.
At peak, Lockheed Martin expects to employ 1,000 to 1,200 people in Houston alone, with another 500 to 600 at‘ home base in Denver, Colo., providing systems and design engineering support, according to Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Joan Underwood.
Lockheed Martin also is staffing engineering liaison offices at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio and Langley Research Center near Hampton Roads, Va., where NASA civil servants are leading development of the CEV service module and the vehicle’s launch abort system respectively.
Langley engineers will work with Lockheed Martin and teammate Orbital Science Corp. to develop a launch abort system designed to pull the Orion CEV crew module away from its Ares 1 launcher in the event of an emergency.
The launch abort system will be built by Orbital Sciences under a contract worth around $500 million over 12 years.
Orbital Sciences spokesman Barron Beneski said the contract is the Dulles, Va.-based company’s single biggest in terms of annual revenue potential. It is expected to generate about $50 million a year for the next five years.
Orbital’s propulsion vendors for the project are Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet and Promontory, Utah-basedThiokol.
Aerojet is providing the attitude control and jettison motors for the launch abort system, while ATK Thiokol is providing a four-nozzle abort motor capable of cranking out the 500,000 pounds of thrust in two seconds needed to propel the Orion crew module clear of its launcher should something go wrong on the pad or in flight.
ATK Thiokol spokesman George Torres said the abort motor the company is supplying has a lot of heritage, with a design that is traceable to the abort motors used in NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and more recently on the space shuttle program to jettison the orbiter’s spent solid rocket boosters. Torres said the work would be done in Promontory, but could not give a dollar value.
Jim Long, Aerojet executive director of advanced space programs, said the jettison motor the company is supplying for the launch abort system is similar to some of the upper stages the company has built for Peacekeeper missiles. The eight-nozzle attitude control motor also has a defense pedigree, according to Long. That defense pedigree draws upon work Aerojet has done on tactical missiles. Aerojet plans to build the solid rocket motors in Sacramento, but also plans to do part of the design in Gainesville, Va., at facilities it acquired when it bought tactical missile propulsion supplier Atlantic Research Corp. in 2003.
Aerojet also is supplying Lockheed Martin with the main engine and a cluster of maneuvering engines for the Orion CEV service module. The crew module will use Aerojet-supplied non-toxic reaction control engines for in space maneuvering and a retro-rocket for landing. The main engine, which is based on the space shuttle orbital maneuvering system engine, will be built in Sacramento, Long said, while much of the reaction control system work will be done in Redmond, Wash.
Windsor Locks, Conn.-based Hamilton Sundstrand and Glendale, Ariz.-based Honeywell Aerospace also are playing major roles on Lockheed Martin’s CEV team .
Hamilton Sundstrand is providing numerous key systems for CEV, including power management, life support and fire detection and suppression under a subcontract expected to be worth $400 million over the next five years, according to Dan Lee, the company’s director of space programs. At peak, Lee said, the CEV work will employ about 250 people at Hamilton Sundstrand with more jobs created among its suppliers.
“Programs like this come along every 15-20 years.” Lee said. “It gives us a chance to reinvigorate the engineering work force and hire new folks.”
Hamilton Sundstrand provides environmental systems for the international space station and is the prime contractor for the suits NASA astronauts use on spacewalks.
Lee said Hamilton Sundstrand’s role on Lockheed Martin’s CEV team represents the company’s biggest contract after the space suit work.
And while the work Hamilton Sundstrand will be doing on CEV has many similarities to the work the company has done on the space shuttle and international space station programs, Lee said the company is moving into new territory with the role its playing on Lockheed Martin’s team.
“The biggest difference here is we are more in a systems role, completely integrated into the Lockheed team,” he said. “We are not just providing subsystems or just boxes to the prime. That’s been our traditional role on shuttle and [the international space station]. We’ve kind of moved up the food chain a bit.”
Honeywell has primary responsibility CEV’s avionics system and will supply hardware and software for vehicle health monitoring, and crew cockpit displays.
Dennis Donati, Honeywell Aerospace’s director of human space programs, said the two-fault tolerant avionics system the firm is developing for CEV will be built on a so-called open architecture meant to make future upgrades easier to accomplish. Honeywell’s work on vehicle health management and flight system automation is intended to make Orion easier to maintain and operate than current spacecraft.
“Ultimately when you go to Mars, you are going to have missions a long way away for extended periods of time,” Donati said. “Orion is a step forward from the shuttle, moving toward the vehicle management [systems] you are going to need for longer duration missions.”
Honeywell, which has supplied electronics to every NASA human spaceflight program since Mercury, remains heavily involved in the international space station and space shuttle programs, having recently replaced the shuttle orbiters’ analog gauges with digital displays and other such enhancements.
Donati said Honeywell’s work on CEV will be based in Arizona with support from company sites in Florida, Minnesota and Texas.
Honeywell would not say how much its CEV work is worth or how many jobs it is expected to create. Honeywell spokesman Paul Loughfran said the company has no immediate plans to hire. “Right now we are staffing with who we already have,” he said.