Building a new future in space: deep space exploration systems

By NASA

NASA is going back to the Moon to stay, in a
measured, sustainable fashion, and we are keeping our eyes on Mars.  Take a peek at the rocket, spacecraft and ground systems in development that will enable NASA and partners to achieve this bold, ambitious, and exciting challenge and make human exploration of deep space a reality.

Explore without limits (2018-02-20)NASA

NASA is leading an innovative and sustainable program of exploration to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.

The International Space Station (ISS)NASA

For 20 years, the International Space Station has helped us discover and advance solutions for better lives on Earth and in space.

The Blue MarbleNASA

Now it’s time to push human space exploration forward to the Moon and beyond.

By doing so, we can identify and pioneer new solutions that cannot be discovered or engineered here on Earth.

The moon (2018-03-22) by NASANASA

The President’s direction from SPD-1 galvanizes our return to the Moon and builds on our progress on SLS and Orion, our efforts with commercial and international partners, and what we have been learning from our current robotic presence at the Moon and Mars.

Space Launch System rocket by NASANASA

NASA’s powerful Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will enable human and robotic missions in unexplored regions of space.

Exploration Mission-1 map (2018-03-16) by NASANASA

All eyes will be on the historic Launch Complex 39B when Orion and the Space Launch System lift off for the first time and make way for deep space. The mission will demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

Space Launch System rocket by NASANASA

NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, will be the only rocket with the power and capabilities to launch humans and robotic missions to deep space in a single launch.

The versatile Orion spacecraft by NASANASA

Drawing from more than 50 years of spaceflight development and operations, NASA's Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts to the Gateway in lunar orbit, keep them healthy and safe from launch and on return to Earth under high-speed re-entry conditions.

NASA’s modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center (2018-03-16) by NASANASA

Exploration Ground Systems is transforming NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with modern capabilities to process and launch the next-generation of rockets and spacecraft designed to achieve America's goals for deep space exploration.

New NASA hardware by NASANASA

Some of the major milestones, progress, and real hardware being built every day in America and Europe – powerful engines, massive fuel tanks, transporter vehicles, work platforms, and other engineering marvels that propel America’s deep space exploration programs.

Early morning view of iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (2017-06-20) by NASANASA

The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft will come together in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.

Nearby, workers upgrade the dock area to accommodate the huge core stage of the SLS rocket when it arrives for integration by barge from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

Construction completed for stand to test SLS’s largest fuel tank (2016-09-15) by NASANASA

NASA will test the SLS liquid hydrogen tank to ensure it is ready for the extreme forces of launch and ascent.

The tanks will feed 733,000 gallons of super-cooled propellant to four engines, producing 2 million pounds of thrust at the base of the core stage.

NASA simulates Orion spacecraft launch conditions for crew (2013-12-16) by NASANASA

In a lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, engineers simulated conditions that astronauts in space suits would experience when the Orion spacecraft is vibrating during launch atop the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket on its way to deep space destinations.

Final work platform installed in Vehicle Assembly Building for NASA's Space Launch System (2017-10-12) by Frank MichauxNASA

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers completed the installation of 10 levels of dynamic, evolvable work platforms that will surround NASA's Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building and allow processing for missions.

Rainbow view of NASA’s RS-25 Engine Test (2017-02-22) by NASANASA

RS-25 engines will help power the SLS, with a pair of solid rocket boosters.

NASA ran eight RS-25 engine tests in 2017 and completed preparations for 4 liquid fuel engines to help power SLS on its first mission.

Engineers are already testing engines for the second mission that will carry crew.

Orion's thermal protection tiles (2018-03-16) by NASANASA

Thermal protection system tiles are installed on Orion at the Operations and Checkout building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

These tiles will protect Orion during re-entry as the capsule returns to Earth from tens of thousands of miles past the Moon.

Cranes, rigging used to lift bracket for Orion Service Module Umbilical (2017-03-14) by NASANASA

The tower on the Mobile Launcher platform has with several connections, called launch umbilicals, that will connect to the SLS core stage and twin solid rocket boosters, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the Orion spacecraft.

They will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel.

VAB at end of rainbow during Crawler-transporter test drive (2017-03-21) by NASANASA

NASA’s crawler-transporter 2, has carried rockets and spacecraft to the launch pad for 50 years.

The crawlers are being modified to carry NASA's SLS and Orion spacecraft on the Mobile Launcher, and potential commercial vehicles to their pads to begin space exploration missions.

SLS engine section test article loaded on the Pegasus Barge (2007-10-09) by NASANASA

NASA made a test version of the Space Launch System engine section at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and shipped it to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama aboard the specially made Pegasus barge so it could be pushed, pulled, twisted and bent in tests.

Vacuum Pressure Integrated Suit Test by NASANASA

At the Johnson Space Center, engineers and technicians test the spacesuit astronauts will wear on the first crewed SLS and Orion flight.

The suit is connected to life support systems before the air is removed from a thermal vacuum chamber to provide conditions similar to that of a spacecraft.

Orion’s Ogive creates safe escape for astronauts by NASANASA

In Sandusky, Ohio, engineers used a wall of highly specialized speakers to replicate, at full scale, the acoustics and vibrations Orion will experience during its missions in space.

The ogive panels protect the crew module from harsh acoustic and vibration environments during launch.

Orion's parachutes measure up in high pressure test (2017-09-14) by NASANASA

In 2017, NASA successfully conducted three tests in the desert of Yuma, Arizona to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts to help the agency safely return crew to Earth.

Each test simulated a possible failure scenario that may occur with the parachute system.

Technicians complete final welds Inside Liquid Oxygen Tank for first SLS flight (2017-09-05) by NASANASA

All five major parts of the SLS are ready for testing. They'll be connected to form the 212-foot-tall core stage.

To build the two largest core stage structures, the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks, NASA welded the thickest structures ever joined using self-reacting friction stir welding.

SLS Core Stage Pathfinder arrives at NASA Michoud (2017-09-27) by NASANASA

The Space Launch System rocket's core stage pathfinder is similar in size, shape and weight to the 212-foot-tall core stage so NASA can test new shipping and handling equipment and procedures from the manufacturing site to the test site to the launch site to reduce risk.

Space Launch System booster separation test in wind tunnel (2017-10-10) by NASANASA

Engineers have conducted several wind tunnel tests with Space Launch System models, using distinct pink pressure-sensitive paint to understand the aerodynamic forces the rocket may experience on the launch pad and during flight.

Testing Orion spacecraft exit procedure (2017-07-03) by NASANASA

During crew egress testing in the Gulf of Mexico, teams evaluated how the crew will get out of the capsule with assistance and by themselves.

If the capsule lands upside down or turns over in high waves, uprighting bags are responsible for turning Orion right side up.

A structural test version of the intertank for NASA's new deep-space rocket (2018-03-07) by NASANASA

A structural test version of the intertank for SLS will undergo critical testing as engineers push, pull and bend the hardware with millions of pounds of force to ensure it can withstand the forces of launch and ascent.

Airbus facility in Bremen, Germany (2018-03-16) by NASANASA

Orion's European Service Module will provide power and propulsion to the Orion spacecraft as it travels 40,000 miles past the Moon on Exploration Mission-1.

Here, technicians at the Airbus facility in Bremen, Germany are installing the fuel tanks.

NASA SLS structural test (2017-05-17) by NASANASA

Engineers redesigned the Pegasus barge to accommodate the SLS rocket's massive, 212-foot-long core stage – the backbone of the rocket – and other flight hardware.

The 310-foot barge will ferry the flight core stage from Michoud to other NASA centers for tests and launch.

Super Guppy aircraft (2017-07-10) by NASANASA

NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft is capable of transporting the large parts of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to the pad.

It has a unique hinged nose that opens more than 200 degrees and a 25x25x111-foot cargo compartment that can carry more than 26 tons.

Orion processing continues for NASA's Exploration Mission-1 (2018-03-16) by NASANASA

Final assembly of the Orion spacecraft takes place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center where Orion will be prepared for flight using a variety of test stands and processing bays for hardware such as thermal protection panels to protect the capstule from the heat of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Exploration Mission-1 logo (2018-03-16) by NASANASA

Follow along for updates related to Exploration Mission-1, and the deep space exploration systems that will send humans to the Moon and beyond.

Exploration Mission-1

The Orion spacecraft

The Space Launch System rocket

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