Space Missions Come Together in Colorado
Our leadership hit the road to visit our commercial partners Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Ball Aerospace in Colorado. They were able to check the status of flight hardware, mission operations and even test virtual reality simulations that help these companies build spacecraft parts.
Let’s take a look at all the cool technology they got to see…
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building our Orion crew vehicle, the only spacecraft designed to take humans into deep space farther than they’ve ever gone before.
Acting NASA Deputy Administrator Lesa Roe and Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot are seen inside the CHIL…the Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colo. Lockheed Martin’s CHIL enables collaboration between spacecraft design and manufacturing teams before physically producing hardware.
Cool shades! The ability to visualize engineering designs in virtual reality offers tremendous savings in time and money compared to using physical prototypes. Technicians can practice how to assemble and install components, the shop floor can validate tooling and work platform designs, and engineers can visualize performance characteristics like thermal, stress and aerodynamics, just like they are looking at the real thing.
This heat shield, which was used as a test article for the Mars Curiosity Rover, will now be used as the flight heat shield for the Mars 2020 rover mission.
Fun fact: Lockheed Martin has built every Mars heat shield and aeroshell for us since the Viking missions in 1976.
Here you can see Lockheed Martin’s Mission Support Area. Engineers in this room support six of our robotic planetary spacecraft: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Juno, OSIRIS-REx and Spitzer, which recently revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star, TRAPPIST-1. They work with NASA centers and the mission science teams to develop and send commands and monitor the health of the spacecraft.
See all the pictures from the Lockheed Martin visit HERE.
Sierra Nevada Corporation
Next, Lightfoot and Roe went to Sierra Nevada Corporation in Louisville, Colo. to get an update about its Dream Chaser vehicle. This spacecraft will take cargo to and from the International Space Station as part of our commercial cargo program.
Here, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Vice President of Space Exploration Systems Steve Lindsey (who is also a former test pilot and astronaut!) speaks with Lightfoot and Roe about the Dream Chaser Space System simulator.
Lightfoot climbed inside the Dream Chaser simulator where he “flew” the crew version of the spacecraft to a safe landing. This mock-up facility enables approach-and-landing simulations as well as other real-life situations.
See all the images from the Sierra Nevada visit HERE.
Lightfoot and Roe went over to Ball Aerospace to tour its facility. Ball is another one of our commercial aerospace partners and helps builds instruments that are on NASA spacecraft throughout the universe, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the New Horizons mission to Pluto. Ball designed and built the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system that will enable the James Webb Space Telescope to look 13.5 billion years back in time.
Looking into the clean room at Ball Aerospace’s facility in Boulder, Colo., the team can see the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite. These sensors are used on spacecraft to track ozone measurements.
Here, the group stands in front of a thermal vacuum chamber used to test satellite optics. The Operation Land Imager-2 is being built for Landsat 9, a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that will continue the Landsat Program’s 40-year data record monitoring the Earth’s landscapes from space.
See all the pictures from the Ball Aerospace visit HERE.
We recently marked a decade since a new era began in commercial spaceflight development for low-Earth orbit transportation. We inked agreements in 2006 to develop rockets and spacecraft capable of carrying cargo such as experiments and supplies to and from the International Space Station. Learn more about commercial space HERE.
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