Printer Friendly

TESTS AIM AT A SAFER SPACECRAFT.

Byline: JIM SKEEN Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE -- The NASA Dryden Flight Research Center will oversee tests of a system to safely abort a flight if problems develop in launching the nation's next manned spacecraft, agency officials said Monday.

``It's going to be the most reliable system we hope we never have to use,'' said Griff Corpening, Dryden's project manager.

Dryden will manage the abort-flight test integration and operations for NASA's crew exploration vehicle or CEV that will replace the space shuttle fleet and serve as the keystone in plans to return astronauts to the moon.

Dryden's role was announced at a briefing in which NASA officials described how work on the new spacecraft will be divided among the agency's 10 research centers.

The planned spacecraft will transport up to six crew members to and from the International Space Station. Agency officials said they want the spacecraft to begin conducting missions no later than 2014 -- and the closer the better to the planned 2010 retirement of the space shuttle fleet.

The CEV will take up to four astronauts for moon missions, which the agency expects to start in 2018.

The CEV abort system will be a rocket system, including the solid rocket booster and crew module, that will sit at the very top of the launch stack. During an emergency, the abort-system rocket would pull the crew module up and away, and the rocket would separate from the module. Then the module's parachute system would deploy to give the spacecraft a soft landing.

The Dryden effort will be modeled after a similar one, Little Joe 2, used in the early 1960s to develop an abort system for the Apollo program.

At Dryden, engineers will use full-scale mockups to work out how components will fit together and how the mechanics of the tests will be done. As in the Little Joe 2 program, actual flight testing will be done at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

``The goal is to test the abort system in stressful conditions,'' said Joel Sitz, who heads Dryden's exploration-systems directorate. ``We'll stress the system. If it works at stressful points, it should work in other conditions.''

Tentative plans call for conducting two launch-pad tests in which the abort system will pull a mockup of the crew module up to heights of about 20,000 feet. That testing is expected to be done in late 2008 or early 2009.

Those tests would be followed by three or four to see how the abort system performs in ascent after launch. That testing is expected to occur in the spring of 2009.

Sitz and Corpening said the testing will be similar in many ways to the work Dryden conducted on the X-43 program, which wrapped up in 2004. In the X-43 program, an unmanned aircraft had to separate from a rocket, as the abort system will be required to do.

``The similarities between the two are pretty apparent,'' Corpening said. ``A lot of the skills and knowledge to pull it off (the abort testing) were honed on X-43.''

NASA officials said they could not provide numbers on how many workers will be involved in the effort. It is known that NASA has no plans to add large numbers of workers to the effort to return astronauts to the moon.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffen said that the agency does not have the money to add large numbers of workers, and there is a desire to avoid a boom-and-bust cycle for employees.

Sometime this fall, NASA will select either a team led by Lockheed Martin or one led by Northrop Grumman, with Boeing as its major partner, to build the CEV, which looks like a larger version of the Apollo spacecraft that went to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s.

NASA estimates it will cost $104 billion to return astronauts to the moon by 2018. The Apollo program spent the equivalent of $165 billion in today's dollars from 1961 through the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

NASA officials refer to the new moon plan as ``Apollo on steroids.'' The plan calls for placing four astronauts on the moon's surface, instead of the two in Apollo days. Astronauts will be able to stay on the moon's surface for four days to a week, while Apollo 17's mission lasted three days.

james.skeen(at)dailynews

(661) 267-5743
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 6, 2006
Words:729
Previous Article:SEASON'S WARNINGS HEAT WAVE, GRASS KINDLE FIRE ALERTS.
Next Article:A DAY AT THE POLLS BONDS, GOP RACES LEAD TODAY'S BALLOTS.


Related Articles
SPACECRAFT ROLLS IN TEST FLIGHT BUT RECOVERS FOR SOFT LANDING.
X-40A'S FIRST AIR TEST SUCCEEDS.
A.V. TO APPLY FOR STATE FUNDS; OFFICIALS MEET ABOUT HIGHWAY TO SPACE GRANT PROPOSALS.
EXPERIMENTAL ENGINE TEST GIVES VALUABLE INSIGHT.
NASA'S READY TO GO BEYOND SPACE SHUTTLE CRAFT MAY BE FLYING BY 2010.
COST DELAYS ADVANCED ORBITER PILOTLESS CRAFT HAD WING TROUBLES.
MOON GOAL BENEFITS A.V. REGION'S AEROSPACE LEADERS OPTIMISTIC.
WORKERS ASSEMBLING EXPERIMENTAL PLANE.
ROCKET MOTOR TEST A SUCCESS PROGRAM AIMED AT GETTING INTO SPACE CHEAPLY, RELIABLY.
X-37 FLIGHT TESTS CONCLUDED SPACEPLANE OPERATED BY COMPUTERS.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters