Based on the lessons learned from the spacecraft's test flight in December, engineers at Lockheed Martin are decreasing the vehicles weight and making manufacturing design improvements. These improvements will bring NASA one step closer to achieving their EM-1 launch goal in 2018.
From a recent Lockheed Martin press release:
“The vast majority of Orion’s design is over, and now we will only change things when new requirements come into play,” said Michael Hawes, Lockheed Martin Orion vice president and program manager. “Considering the incredible complexity of this spacecraft, the team is very proud to have successfully completed the design review and is looking forward to seeing it fly.”
The Critical Design Review for the Orion spacecraft began in August of this year and primarily focused on the EM-1 design. Additionally, Lockheed Martin reviewed the common elements that will be included on the Exploration Mission-2 spacecraft. These elements include the structure, pyrotechnics, Launch Abort System, software, guidance, navigation and control. Systems unique to the EM-2 mission, such as crew displays and the Environmental Control and Life Support System, will be evaluated at a later EM-2 CDR.
The complete Orion EM-1 CDR process will conclude after the European Service Module CDR and will be presented to the NASA Agency Program Management Council this upcoming spring.
In early 2016, the Orion Spacecraft will be transported to the Operations and Checkout Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo final assembly, integration and testing in order to prepare for the EM-1.
The test flight will be launched atop NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and will send Orion on a 20-day mission in a wide orbit around the moon, which is the farthest distance from Earth that any human-rated spacecraft has ever traveled.
According to Lockheed Martin, the Orion program will enable NASA to:
- Carry out a robust human and robotic exploration program that is both sustainable and affordable
- Extend human presence across the solar system to our planets, asteroids and other destinations
- Develop the innovative technology, knowledge, and infrastructure needed to support more challenging human space exploration missions
- Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further advance U.S. scientific, security and economic interests