SPACE SYSTEMS PROVIDES BACKBONE AND MUSCLE TO EACH SPACE SHUTTLE FLIGHT
NEW ORLEANS, LA., 01-JUN-01 -- In a blinding flash of heat and light, the Space Shuttle lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center.
The orbiter and astronaut crew blaze through the sky on the way to their most frequent destination, the International Space Station (ISS), carrying with them nearly 28 years of accomplishment and dedication by a Lockheed Martin team led by the Space Systems Company.
Over two decades of operations and 104 launches, the shuttle has flown more than 600 astronauts into space, carried over three million pounds of cargo and traveled 375 million miles. No space launch vehicle is as versatile – or as complex – nor has any program opened our eyes to the majesty, power and promise of space quite like the shuttle.
And Lockheed Martin provides the know-how to make it a success.
Serving as the backbone for every Space Shuttle launch is the massive External Tank, designed and assembled by Michoud Operations in New Orleans, La.
The 154-foot long, 28-foot diameter ET, as it is fondly known, is the only non-reusable major shuttle component. During ascent, it absorbs almost six million pounds of stresses and loads, and carries over 530,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for use in the orbiter’s main engines.
Although the ET’s appearance hasn’t changed since the first two flight articles were painted white, below that reddish brown exterior insulation are modifications that have dramatically improved shuttle performance. Since the first shuttle flight in 1981, design and material changes have shaved over eight tons – more than 22 percent – off the tank’s empty weight. Each of these pounds equates to another pound of payload that can be brought into orbit, and thus add to the muscle of the shuttle system.
The latest weight-loss effort, the Super Lightweight Tank, relies on a new aluminum-lithium alloy developed by Lockheed Martin to reduce 7,500 pounds, thus providing the performance increase necessary to allow deployment of the ISS components.
Adding more senses and operational muscle to the shuttle are the Astronautics Operations’ contributions of caution and warning systems, control and monitoring subsystems, pyrotechnic initiator controllers and reaction control systems. Astronautics supplied the voluminous solid rocket booster parachutes to allow recovery and reuse; and the Manned Maneuvering Unit that provided astronauts with unprecedented mobility outside the spacecraft.
Missiles & Space Operations in Sunnyvale, Calif. provided a protective skin, the critical shuttle tiles that insulate the orbiter and crew from the searing heat of reentry.
Space Operations, a part of Lockheed Martin Technology Services, plays an important role as well. They designed and developed the brains of flight operations, NASA’s Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. They also design, manufacture and certify flight hardware; provide payload mission management; and maintain and operate shuttle-landing systems.
Through the United Space Alliance, Lockheed Martin’s joint venture with Boeing, the whole complex system comes together into dynamic existence with pre-flight processing and planning, launch and mission operation. The result has been reduced costs and increased shuttle safety and efficiency.
The Space Shuttle system itself, however, is no more valuable than the work that takes place once it reaches orbit. Space Systems Company payloads carried aboard and spacecraft deployed from the shuttle have literally been our eyes on the universe.
In May 1989, the Magellan Spacecraft, built in Denver, Colo. silently separated from the orbiter cargo bay to begin a multi-year mission to map the surface of Venus. Through its striking radar images, we now know more than ever about the formation of Earth’s sister planet.
One year later, in one of mankind’s great scientific achievements, the Space Shuttle deployed the Hubble Space telescope, built in Sunnyvale. In the decade since, Hubble has expanded our understanding and insight into the wonders of the universe in a way unmatched in history.
As our third live-in crew prepares for its ISS mission, the Space Shuttle remains a pivotal link in our access to and exploration of space. Lockheed Martin continues to play a vital role in those future plans.
ET assembly continues as well, as NASA and Michoud Operations recently signed a $1.1 billion contract to build an additional 35 External Tanks for delivery through September 2006. It is another important step in assuring that Lockheed Martin continues to build External Tanks for as long as the Space Shuttle flies.
With the continuing demand of the International Space Station, and the promise of additional on-orbit research as well, that could be for a very long, very productive time, indeed.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, headquartered in Denver, Colo., is one of the major operating units of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Space Systems designs, develops, tests, manufactures and operates a variety of advanced technology systems for military, civil and commercial customers. Chief products include a full-range of space launch systems, including heavy-lift capability, ground systems, remote sensing and communications satellites for commercial and government customers, advanced space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft, fleet ballistic missiles and missile defense systems.
For more information about Lockheed Martin Space Systems, see our website at http://www.lockheedmartin.com/michoud/ .