Orion faces more delays

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Faced with looming schedule problems for Europe’s effort to build the service module for the Orion capsule, NASA has created a working group to attack the problem.

The European Service Module (ESM) element of Orion has been classed as a major schedule driver for the program for some time. The Service Module for Orion was originally going to be an all-American system, under the control of Lockheed Martin. However, a deal back in 2012 resulted in an alliance with the European Space Agency (ESA) to utilize hardware associated with its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).

The deal made sense. NASA’s goal of international collaboration is deemed to be an essential formula for spreading the costs and increasing the viability of NASA’s exploration goals, building on the success of the partnerships that built the International Space Station. Also, the ATV is proven technology, having already proved its worth via a string of successful resupply missions to the orbital outpost.

However, the challenge of combining the technology into what is essentially an American vehicle has resulted in schedule pressures.

Let me once again point out that Orion was first proposed by President George Bush in 2004. Its first official flight, with service module, is now scheduled for 2018. That means it took NASA 14 years to build and launch a unmanned single complete capsule, assuming they can get the service module built in time. That it took that long to build this is shameful. That there is even the slightest possibility that 14 years won’t be enough time to build the service module is downright disgusting, and is another illustration of the complete failure of the federal government.

Note that the previous unmanned Orion test flight in 2014 really doesn’t count. That capsule was a engineering test capsule, designed to test the capsule’s heat shield, even though NASA had already decided before the flight to abandon that heat shield design. In other words, it was a complete waste of money.



  • LocalFluff

    Yeah, the 2014 test flight had no service module and no proper interiors, just one off equipment to monitor the test itself. It was meant to test the Earth EDL realistically, but it had a different heat shield than what the real thing will have, so the most critical EDL component is still untested.

    ESA has no experience from building capsules for human space flight. AFAIK European involvement in the Apollo program and the Space Shuttle was minimal if not non-existent. It shows that Orion is purely a political money grabbing program without any intention to ever fly. And of course it shows, as always, that international cooperation in space means delays and cost overruns. Those who lie that international involvement spreads the costs are right, but the total costs get so much higher that it is a big loss anyway.

    I doubt that the Orion will ever fly with a crew. That is said to happen in 5 years, which rather means 10 years, and the probability for it getting scrapped during that long time is overwhelming. If SLS goes, then Orion goes too. Falcon Heavy is probably not heavy enough to send a crewed Orion to the Moon. And even if it is ready then, it will be much cheaper and safer to use private alternatives which then will be proven many times since several years.

  • ChrisL

    NASA went from John Glenn’s orbital flight to Neil Armstrong’s Moon landing in 8 years. Is no one attached to this program even a little ashamed at what they’re doing?

  • Alex

    ChrisL: Well said. You hit the nail.

  • wodun

    Why hurry when a completed Orion would just sit around doing nothing for years and years?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *