Dryden plays a significant role in the development of next-generation NASA spacecraft as part of the Constellation program. The spacecraft currently being developed, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, is expected to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station and, eventually, back to the moon.
Center engineers conducted preliminary definition and planning for the Orion Crew Module test article abort flight tests, drop tests, and landing and recovery tests. That work involved development of abort profiles, range safety requirements and integration, flight test support and independent analysis. The Abort Flight Test effort is managed at Dryden under the leadership of the Project Orion Flight Test Office at Johnson Space Center, Houston.
NASA's first full-scale flight-test article of the Constellation program, which is called the Orion flight test crew module, is undergoing preparations at Dryden for the first flight test of the spacecraft's launch abort system in 2009. The Orion flight test crew module arrived at Edwards Air Force Base March 28. After being painted in the Edwards Air Force Base paint hangar, it was delivered to Dryden for installation of flight computers, instrumentation and other electronics.
Following systems installation, the completed vehicle will be shipped from Dryden to the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, where the launch abort system will be integrated with the vehicle for the first abort flight test. Four abort flight tests will launch from White Sands, with the fifth and last test of the system flying from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.