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Frontiers February 2014 Issue

RS-25 engines, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, were originally designed for the space shuttle. The first launch is expected to take place in 2017. This will lead to the first crewed flight, when astronauts will be launched into lunar orbit aboard the new Orion spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin. The biggest challenges ahead for the program to stay on track could be funding by the federal government, Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development at NASA headquarters, said in a recent interview with Aviation Week magazine. With tight budgets and tight schedules, the use of heri-tage hardware from the Space Shuttle program has reduced the cost of the Space Launch System and eliminated the need to develop new engines and solid boosters. “But the coin has two sides,” May said. “The downside of using heritage hardware is that it puts constraints on the design and limits your ability to optimize the vehicle. It’s still a very powerful vehicle, but you can’t fine-tune it as perfectly as you could if you were designing all of the components from scratch.” One program that gave the Space Launch System—and Boeing—a big boost was part of an earlier space initiative called Constellation. In 2007, NASA awarded Boeing the contract to produce the upper stage of the Ares 1 launch vehicle, which could support beyond-Earth-orbit missions. Constellation, along with Ares 1, was canceled in 2010, but that work laid the foundation for Boeing’s selection on the Space Launch System. “Because of the progress Boeing had made on Ares I, it gave us a real running start in designing the core stage of the Space Launch System,” May said. “Much of the avionics design was already in place, and the manufacturing tooling and techniques were already well along.” Rick Navarro, Boeing’s director of Manufacturing, Assembly and Operations for the Space Launch System, said Constellation was the impetus that got Boeing to rethink manufacturing processes from decades-old manned space programs. New manufacturing and design processes were developed and plans were made to make extensive use of friction stir welding. In addition, the supply chain Frontiers February 2014 25


Frontiers February 2014 Issue
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