Status Report

Opening Statement by Scott Horowitz – House Science Committee Hearing: Implementing the Vision for Space Exploration: Development of the CEV

By SpaceRef Editor
September 28, 2006
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Opening Statement by Scott Horowitz – House Science Committee Hearing: Implementing the Vision for Space Exploration: Development of the CEV

Statement of Scott Horowitz
Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Before the Committee on Science U.S. House of Representatives

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to outline NASA’s progress in developing Orion, the Nation’s next-generation piloted spacecraft.

In the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-155), the Congress provided a national framework that supports and expands upon the Administration’s Vision for Space Exploration. These policy pillars are helping to shape, align, and focus NASA’s human exploration and robotic activities. With this foundation, NASA now has a broad, future-focused context for its low Earth orbit activities. These include flying the Space Shuttle safely until its 2010 retirement and completing the International Space Station (ISS) in order to advance science, exploration, and international collaboration. NASA is also now taking the initial steps to extend humanity’s presence across the solar system by moving beyond our beachhead in space on the ISS. We will return to the Moon by the end of the next decade to live and work on a sustained basis to meet a range of objectives, including the preparation for journeys to Mars and beyond.

A sustained presence on the Moon will advance U.S. preeminence, commerce and science, and prepare us for future expeditions outside Earth’s immediate neighborhood. I am honored and humbled to represent such a noble, important, and far-reaching effort. It taps into a natural curiosity about space, stirs our imagination, and stimulates creativity and productivity. It is a program that will make a difference in our lives, on our planet, and to our children’s children’s future.

Time to Put the Viewgraphs Down and Get Going

In August of this year, NASA took a major step to maintain the Nation’s leadership position in space when it awarded to Lockheed Martin Corporation a contract to design and develop the Crew Exploration Vehicle, now dubbed Orion. The contract took effect on September eighth. Named for one of the brightest and most recognizable star formations in the sky, Orion is the central member of a family of spacecraft and launchers that NASA’s Constellation Program is developing for the next generation of explorers. Two industry teams, Lockheed Martin and a consortium of Northrop Grumman and Boeing, spent 13 months refining concepts, analyzing requirements, and refining the design for Orion.

Orion represents the culmination of literally decades of hardware heritage, design, and trades. We now have the opportunity to develop a system with greater safety, reliability, capability, and affordability than the Space Shuttle. The Columbia tragedy and the earlier Challenger tragedy clarified the need to address these issues and form a national context where our human spaceflight capabilities can be openly addressed. Thank you for providing a national framework in which to begin to implement our dreams and build upon the sacrifice of our colleagues. We already are working hard on this transition from our current capabilities into the capabilities of the future.

Astronauts will have a less risky ride to and from space aboard Orion. While all space flight involves risk, if we are to explore, we must reduce the risk of launching below the current level. This new crew module is inherently safer than the Shuttle because it will be placed on top of its booster. This will protect it from potentially deadly launch system debris during ascent, and allows the addition of an abort system that can separate capsule and crew from the booster in an emergency.

Orion is the next-generation piloted spacecraft. For missions to the Moon, Orion will carry up to four astronauts to low Earth orbit and, once there, link up with a lunar surface access module for the trip to lunar orbit. The access module will descend to the Moon’s surface for up to a week for sortie missions and up to six months for outpost missions, while Orion orbits, awaiting its return. The two vehicles will link up again at the end of the surface mission, and the astronauts will ride back to Earth in Orion. The capsule will re-enter the atmosphere and descend on parachutes back to Earth. Orion also has the capability to service the ISS as a backup to commercial crew and cargo delivery services now in development for the ISS. Orion will be capable of transporting crew to and from the ISS and staying for six months as a rescue vehicle.

Knowledge-Based Acquisition for a Path from the Past to the Future

Unlike NASA’s past space vehicle efforts, such as the National Aero-Space Plane, X-33, and Orbital Space Plane, which focused on pushing technology and relied on numerous advances and breakthroughs, Orion is designed and focused on achieving clear national goals based on known technology and using an integrated management approach.

Our approach to Orion mirrors NASA’s overall focus on technical competence and excellence in our workforce and in project development and oversight. NASA is placing greater emphasis on reliability in its systems and increasing the amount of up-front analysis that goes into concept definition to ensure that top-level requirements are known and achievable. We recognize that our systems like Orion will operate over decades and in different flight regimes. Therefore, we have decided to insert low-risk and mature technologies into the process but also allow for the introduction of new technology that can mature quickly. Orion resembles Apollo for good reason. Relying on proven technology for our lunar return increases the likelihood of success. Although Orion borrows its shape and aerodynamic performance from Apollo, the new capsule’s updated computers, electronics, life support, propulsion, and heat protection systems represent a marked improvement over legacy systems. Our technology program is tightly coupled with the Constellation Program and it is essential to keeping our long-term risk and life cycle costs within bounds. Because of its importance to overall exploration program risk and our ability to meet national goals, we ask that you support full funding for our technology program’s budget. We are working on a range of technologies, such as cryogenic storage and hydrogen fuel cells, that will make a big impact on our programs and may have valuable applications outside of the space program.

NASA is working to ensure that initial investments lead to an Orion system that supports multiple applications with low recurring operations and life-cycle costs. Since recurring infrastructure costs have a substantial effect on life-cycle costs, selection of the Orion launch vehicle, the Ares I, was influenced greatly by the contractor’s ability to minimize infrastructure and associated manpower requirements.

Technology maturation activities by our research and technology development programs will further improve reliability, reduce life-cycle costs, and increase the anticipated effectiveness of future exploration systems. Also critical to cost control will be the development of a versatile human-rated launch system. The Orion/Ares design will serve as an anchor for NASA’s transportation architecture, which itself is intended to enable exploration involving multiple destinations and diverse objectives. The architecture will be able to grow so that it can perform multiple functions. The overall crew transportation system that will evolve from the basic design will enable ascent and entry in Earth’s atmosphere, transit in Earth orbit and through deep space, and operations at multiple locations including the Moon and Mars.

Orion embodies a new generation of systems but it will be built upon the tried-and-true engineering of the past. We evaluated literally thousands of configurations and transportation options before settling on Orion’s design. The Orion contract is a continuation of these analyses, requirements, architecture, and conceptual design work. Orion will enable space operations by U.S. astronauts on the Moon and elsewhere in the solar system. As the 2005 NASA Authorization Act also directed, we now have a very capable transportation architecture that infuses shuttle-derived hardware and capabilities where appropriate. As a four-time space flyer, personal aircraft builder and flyer, and holder of a PhD in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, I am confident in the design we have chosen. This is not a technology dependent program. This is still rocket science – but rocket science we know and understand.

Orion Contract Approach and Strategy

The acquisition strategy for Orion and other projects within Exploration Systems need to match the bold and forward-thinking Vision for Space Exploration. Within Exploration Systems we have laid out acquisition strategy tenets that were followed for the Orion contract. One of these tenets is to maximize competition. From our recent down-select we received innovative and credible approaches with financial commitments from the Lockheed Martin team that will reap benefits for NASA through the entire life cycle of the Orion project. Another tenet that we are using for Orion and other elements of the Constellation Program is to utilize current, proven technologies that will lead to a safer, more reliable and affordable solution. Because NASA defined the design concepts for development by both Phase One contractors, both Prime Contractor teams were able to construct credible proposal estimates. Lockheed Martin will take these concepts to the next stage of development. For the Schedule A contract for the Design, Development, and Test and Evaluation phase for Orion, NASA chose a cost-type contract, in which it accepts all of the cost risks. We chose this type of contract in order for the contractor team to fully refine the design and test the vehicle so that NASA can receive a reliable and affordable space vehicle. What makes this cost risk acceptable is the fact that the NASA’s two independent efforts — one performed by the Constellation Program Office and the other by the Smart Buyer team — included detailed preparatory work in its strategy for establishing firm requirements at the beginning of the contract. The “not to exceed” prices for the Schedule B option establishes the upper level of the contract value for the Agency for the production of the Orion vehicles to meet the current planned manifest. I would like to acknowledge Allen Li and his team at the Government Accountability Office for pointing out the potential long-term commitment in our solicitation which resulted in NASA making options of both Schedule B and C in the final contract.

NASA’s acquisition strategy and plan for selecting a Project Orion prime contractor was based on a thorough business case and the efforts of our two NASA teams that developed independent designs. We were intimately familiar with both proposal teams, having worked side-by-side with each of them for over a year under Phase 1 contracts. The Orion Project will establish a firm foundation for the Constellation Program. The Orion acquisition strategy and plan focuses on gaining industry’s commitment for a design solution and controlling life cycle cost through competition and incentives.

NASA invested more than $140 million in the formulation phase and we had an appropriate level of knowledge to down-select a single Project Orion prime contractor.

From a contract oversight perspective, we will employ a number of measures to further guard against cost overruns. NASA based 25 percent of the award fee evaluation pool on project cost management. The project will employ earned value management, with cost and schedule performance measured against tasks. Progress will be measured through milestones and tests on a schedule determined by the program. We will demonstrate hardware and progress on Orion through an exacting test and demonstration schedule. Additionally, the Orion contract has an “end item” award fee feature that will be milestone based and focused on successful completion of all elements of the design and initial production of the Orion vehicle. We believe this award fee feature presents an opportunity to maximize the return on investment for both NASA and the Lockheed Martin team.

NASA’s contract with Lockheed Martin maintains the longstanding development schedule for Orion. The initial flight test of an Orion prototype is targeted for 2008. The first unpiloted flight of an actual capsule will follow in 2011, and the first flight with humans aboard is to occur no later than 2014. Orion’s first Moon mission with a crew will take place between 2015 and 2020.

The Orion Project organization was approved June 1, 2006, as a multi-center “virtual” organization that leverages the Agency’s technical strengths. Staffing of key positions is complete. A Constellation tasks “roll out” to nine NASA Centers and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory occurred on June 6, 2006. The NASA centers included Ames, Glenn, Goddard, Langley, Kennedy, Marshall, Stennis, Johnson and Dryden. Management processes are maturing, with integrated reporting and scheduling processes instituted and maturing; boards, panels, and working groups identified; and configuration and risk management processes operating.

NASA Has Addressed the Findings of the GAO Report

NASA has reviewed the findings in the GAO Report entitled “NASA: Long-Term Commitment to and Investment in Space Exploration Program Requires More Knowledge.” We have non-concurred with a key finding in the report since we feel we are meeting the concerns stipulated through our management framework, acquisition approach, and our incentives to Lockheed Martin to meet performance, schedule, and life cycle cost requirements. Also, as stated earlier, we are not seeking technological miracles. We are not trying to violate the laws of physics—we are ready to build a spaceship that can meet our current national needs and evolve to meet our future needs. However, although we non-concurred with the overall report, we have implemented a number of the GAO’s recommendations.

NASA has learned and applied the best lessons from its past efforts. More importantly, we have adopted an implementation approach that is technically solid and well-managed. On the contract side, we have, after discussions with GAO, made the Schedule B and Schedule C portions of the contract into options. Phase Two preserves NASA’s flexibility to terminate the contract at Orion’s preliminary design review if cost projections are determined to be unaffordable and non-executable.

Progress Report – Meeting Commitments and Transitioning Access to Low Earth Orbit

NASA is making good progress on the national objectives Congress has laid out for the Agency. Space Shuttle missions STS-121 in July and STS-115 this month brought us two steps closer to finishing assembly of the International Space Station and meeting our partner commitments. We also are two steps closer to retiring the Shuttle in 2010. The Exploration Systems Mission Directorate is working to create greater service-based access to low Earth orbit, to utilize the ISS for exploration research and development, and to foster the capabilities necessary to sustain human presence on the lunar surface. In August, we entered into two unprecedented agreements with Space X and Rocketplane Kistler to demonstrate, based on milestone performance, cargo and crew services to support the ISS. We are very hopeful that these and other nascent commercial space efforts will succeed so that NASA can increasingly shift its focus and resources beyond low Earth orbit. Once the commercial sector demonstrates this capability, then we will enter into Phase Two of the Commercial Crew and Cargo program and procure these services from the commercial sector via the competitive procurement process.

Meanwhile, much work on Orion already has been accomplished. In May, six vertical drop tests of a body mass simulator, in support of landing systems development, took place at Langley Research Center, and all Phase One arc jet testing for thermal projection systems was completed at Ames Research Center. In June, Ames and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory completed the first phase of a real- time operating trade study evaluation and delivered an interim report, and Orion thermal protection system material was arc jet tested at Johnson Space Center. In July, the Orion cockpit team conducted crew evaluations of proposed window designs and the flight test article System Requirements Review (SRR) was completed. This month we kicked off the Orion SRR and made the Phase Two contract award for the Thermal Protection System Advanced Development Project. In October, NASA will hold a Preliminary Design Review for the Orion flight test article. We are moving forward. On the Ares front, we now have models being tested in wind tunnels. We are firing engine components and will be conducting a launch abort test in 2008 and a full-scale Ares I-1 test launch in April 2009. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)/Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission is on track for launch in 2008.


The Space Shuttle is the world’s most versatile spacecraft to date. The Constellation program’s Orion and Ares will be even more so. They are designed to fly to the Moon, but they also may be used to service the International Space Station. We are looking at ways that Constellation will support expeditions to other bodies in the solar system after we are finished exploring Mars. The possibilities seem limitless. Most importantly, the Constellation Program and our Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) efforts will assure America’s access to space after the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010.

Orion is the focus of America’s 21st century crewed space transport strategy, designed to continue the evolution of exploration experience and cutting-edge technology that began with the Apollo Program. Orion will help further our understanding of Earth, the solar system, the universe, and the origins of life itself. It will support our exploration missions by providing crew ascent and entry into Earth’s atmosphere, orbital and deep-space transit, transfer capabilities, and operations at the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I look forward to working closely with the Congress to ensure American leadership on the frontier of the future. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you or the other Members of the Committee may have.

SpaceRef staff editor.