NASA, Lockheed Martin, and Ball Aerospace complete on-orbit Orion MPCV navigation system test during STS-134 shuttle mission

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

DENVER, 31 May 2011. Commander Mark Kelly completed the first Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) approach to the International Space Station on May 30 at 3:24 a.m. CDT as part of the Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation (STORRM). The flight test marked the first in-flight collaboration of NASA's three human spaceflight programs--space shuttle, International Space Station, and Orion MPCV--and verified the operation of the MPCV's next-generation docking sensor. The sensor is designed to make rendezvous and docking maneuvers safer for future spacecraft, and it has been identified by NASA officials as a critical technology for future space-exploration missions. The NASA, Lockheed Martin, and Ball Aerospace team worked with STS-134 Mission Specialist Andrew Feustel to complete the on-orbit test of the system. 


"This flight test demonstrated the exceptional capability of the Vision Navigation Sensor (VNS) and the Docking Camera, two key components of the Orion relative navigation system," says Catherine Boone, Ph.D., the Lockheed Martin electro-optics engineer who was working in NASA's Mission Control Center during the re-rendezvous event. "We were able to collect about 600 gigabytes of data that will verify the design meets the high-performance standards required for Orion MPCV and other future spacecraft. Follow-on testing at our Space Operations Simulation Center in Denver will also provide an opportunity to look at how we may be able to expand on that performance to make the system as powerful and accurate as possible for the dynamic environments of deep-space exploration missions."

"This test exercised the Orion relative navigation sensors exactly as they will be flown on future human space exploration vehicles," explains Jeanette Domber, Ph.D., senior payloads system engineer and Ball's lead for STORRM. "This mission provided NASA a one-of-a-kind opportunity to prove out the performance of this technology in a real spaceflight environment."

STORRM boasts a relative navigation design providing the required docking accuracy and range capability necessary to meet crew safety, mass, volume, and power requirements for future NASA missions, including those in deep space. The STORRM hardware components include: a high-definition docking camera, the advanced laser-based VNS, an avionics assembly to provide power and record data, a space-certified laptop computer, and reflective docking targets installed on the space station during STS-131.

STORRM's VNS provided continuous measurements from up to three-and-a-half miles to within six feet of the space station, or roughly three times the range capability of the current relative navigation sensor. The next-generation sensor technology also provided three-dimensional (3D) images of the docking target. The new technology also has earth-bound applications for military operations, terrain mapping, robotics, and transportation, including collision avoidance systems.

STORRM technology development was led by NASA's Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Project Office at NASA Johnson Space Center in partnership with NASA Langley Research Center, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Lockheed Martin leads the Orion MPCV industry team.

 


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