NASA announced Monday Langley Research Center and other NASA center responsibilities associated with the Constellation Program for robotic and human moon and Mars exploration.
This distribution of work across NASA's centers reflects the agency's intention to productively use personnel, facilities and resources from across the agency to accomplish the Vision for Space Exploration.
"Our past experiences have provided the foundation to begin shaping the space exploration capabilities needed to create a sustained presence on the moon and on to Mars," said Scott Horowitz, associate administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. "Our programs and projects are evolving as we develop the requirements to execute the Vision for Space Exploration. At the same time we are aligning the work that needs to be accomplished with the capabilities of our NASA centers."
In addition to primary work assignments each center will support moon and Mars surface systems conceptual designs. Centers also support additional Constellation program and project activities.
NASA Langley Research Center has been given the responsibility to manage the Crew Exploration Vehicle launch abort system integration, with prime contractor oversight and independent analysis. In this role, Langley will be an integral part of the CEV project office. The launch abort system is a critical element of NASA's new spacecraft.
Details on Langley's role were spelled out by NASA Langley Center Director Lesa Roe in a news briefing today.
In support of the launch abort system work, Langley will work with the prime contractor to deliver a viable system for the Constellation Program flight tests, starting with pad abort tests as early as December 2008. These early flight tests will use Langley designed and produced hardware that simulates the outer mold line (shape) and mass characteristics of the spacecraft system.
For the initial phases of the launch abort system flight-testing, Langley is a key member of a multi-center government flight test article production team. Langley is contributing substantial design, development, and fabrication civil service personnel and facility resources to produce structural mass simulators that match characteristics of the CEV flight system.
In addition, Langley has responsibility for helping to develop the Crew Exploration Vehicle, itself. The CEV will use an improved, blunt-body capsule much like the Apollo spacecraft but larger. The CEV will be able to carry up to six crewmembers, support landings anywhere on the moon's surface, sustain itself for six months in lunar orbit, return the astronauts to Earth, and also be reusable.
Langley will provide key deliverables for two fast-paced advanced development projects. Langley's expertise and landing and impact dynamics facilities are being applied to the design and preliminary development of the CEV landing system to ensure safe return from the International Space Station or the moon. The center will also supporting the thermal protection system heat shield effort to prove design, fabrication and thermal protection system integration techniques for a large forebody heatshield that will survive lunar return velocities.
Langley will also help develop the Crew Launch Vehicle, or CLV, that will launch the CEV to the International Space Station and on future missions to the moon and Mars. The CLV concept includes a new upper stage, powered by a Saturn-rocket-type engine and a new five-segment solid rocket booster derived from the Shuttle solid rocket booster. The Center has also been asked lead the aerodynamic characterization of the CLV through analysis, scale model design and wind-tunnel testing from pre-launch environments through flight, including ascent, first-stage separation and solid rocket booster recovery. This will require extensive use of Langley test facilities and engineering expertise in aero sciences.
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