Ball Aerospace Technology To Support Orion EFT-1

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

November 21, 2014 – Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. is providing the phased array antennas and flight test cameras to prime contractor Lockheed Martin for Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), which is an unmanned test flight scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 4.

“We are eagerly awaiting the launch of the first mission of Orion as NASA enters its next era of human space flight,” said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager of civil space and technology. “Ball Aerospace is best known for its support of major unmanned space exploration, but has also been a long-time supplier of technology products to the human spaceflight program including the Gemini and Apollo missions, Skylab, the Space Shuttle and now the next generation, Orion spacecraft.”

Ball delivered four phased array antennas for the EFT-1. Each of the phased array antennas is a highly sophisticated subassembly containing over 5,000 individual parts encased in a briefcase-sized housing. The antennas carry mission-critical voice and data communications and will perform on the pad, during ascent, on orbit, and through de-orbit and splashdown. The Orion phased array antenna design leverages dozens of Ball phased array designs delivered for space, airborne, ground and marine applications.

Ball’s three flight test cameras were the first avionics hardware delivered for Orion EFT-1. They are based on the design of the docking camera that flew aboard the STS-134 Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation (STORRM) mission in 2011. For the December Orion flight they will be used for situational awareness to gather data for the duration of the mission, from lift-off through splash-down.

Orion is NASA’s first interplanetary spacecraft designed to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit on long-duration, deep space missions and eventually to Mars. The December test flight will mimic the extreme re-entry forces and harsh environment the crewed versions of Orion will need to withstand carrying astronauts on deep-space missions.

The flight will take Orion to an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface, more than 15 times farther than the International Space Station’s orbital position. By flying Orion out to those distances, NASA will be able to see how Orion performs in and returns from deep space journeys.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy will launch the EFT-1 mission for NASA on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Liftoff is targeted for 7:05 a.m. EST. EFT-1 will mark the 28th Delta IV launch, and ULA’s 90th launch overall.