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   EASY ways to CUT the Orion's weight   

In my articles I've suggested MANY ways to save on Orion's weight (then, to save on Ares-I mass and on the Orion/Ares-I R&D and hardware costs!) but (now) in this page, I start to publish some SIMPLE, FAST, EASY and CHEAP ideas to reduce the (now overweighted) Orion's mass (and, also, to EXCEED that goal!) to launch it with a standard Ares-I or (better!) with a (simpler and cheaper) 4-segments SRB Ares-I that use the SAME, ready available, low cost, man-rated, 235 times successful standard SRB.

My first suggestion to cut the Orion's weight is the "sliced Orion" (or "truncated cone" Orion) that's (simply) the standard LockMart (5 m. diameter) Orion without the (useless and unused, since too small) top part of the capsule.

The standard Orion has THREE TIMES the internal volume of the old Apollo Command Module so, also after a small "cut" on its top part, the internal habitable space STILL remains VERY LARGE while the Orion's mass falls from the current design's (overweighted) 10.5 mT to a (more reasonable) 9.5 mT (or less!) since my guess is of a 10-15% mass saving.

Of course, a 10-15% smaller and lighter Orion, allows the engineers to design a 10-15% smaller and lighter Service Module (filled with 10-15% less propellent) a 10-15% smaller and lighter LAS and a 10-15% smaller set of parachutes!

That's "cutting" the standard 5 m. Orion, however the BEST mass saving could be reached building a less sloped 4.5 m. Orion (something like a "sliced version" of my "TBS-Orion") to have a (very light!) 8 mT (or less!) Orion (with an internal habitable space pretty close to the 5 m. conical version) and a much smaller and lighter SM and LAS, so small, they could be launched with a 4-segments SRB Ares-I and/or some (ready available) EELVs!

June 27 - 2007

After asking a question on Google Groups Space about the mass saved with my sliced-Orion design compared with the mass added on the flat top of the capsule, I've decided to add this image that clearly shows how BIG is the saved mass and how SMALL is the added mass.


My second suggestion to save weight (about 0.5-1 mT, I guess) is the "noseconeLAS" that has not the (too big and too heavy) "Boost Protective Cover" as used in the standard Orion (A) but a smaller cone (B) joined with the top flat side of the capsule with a set of explosive bolts.

The nosecone-LAS has a concave-shaped nose cone and its base is much larger than the capsule top side, so, its aerodynamic will force the air flow's pressure away from the capsule's surface.

The first two "mass-saving" ideas published here, allow the towerLAS mass to fall from over 6.5 mT to less than 5.5 mT, however, the BEST WAY to save up to 4.5 mT on the standard Orion's towerLAS mass, STILL is to adopt my "underside-LAS" design!

July 2 - 2007


The main reason the Orion's tower-LAS is SO HEAVY (over 6.5 mT in the standard version) is that its structure is too big and tall.

But the "sliced-Orion" suggested in this page allows a smaller, shorter and LIGHTER towerLAS I call the "short-LAS", that, thanks to its smaller structure could be (at least) 0.5 mT lighter than a standard towerLAS, then, detracted the mass saved with the first two ideas, the final mass of the "short-LAS" should be LESS THAN 5 mT!!!

Again, the BEST, LIGHTER and SAFER version of LAS (since it works like ALL rockets/stages/service-modules/landers/etc. works: payload ATOP, rockets and thrust BELOW) ALWAYS is my "underside-LAS" design since it allows to build a LAS with a total mass UNDER 3 mT!!!

July 7 - 2007


My 4th suggestion to save on the Orion's mass (not so much but not even negligible if we consider the Orion's overweight problems) is the (rounded) "rectangular Service Module".

In the new (bigger than Apollo CM) NASA capsule, the Service Module will have a diameter smaller than the Orion's 5 m. one, but (from recent preview drawings I've seen) with only TWO tanks (for hypergolics' fuel and oxydizer) rather than four symmetrical tanks.

The choice of two tanks allows to save a few hundreds lbs on the Service Module external case mass using a "rectangular shaped" design (A) rather than the, current, Apollo-like circular design (B).

I've added a little drawing of the Orion with a rounded rectangular Service Module and the latest version of my "zero moving parts solar array" derived from my ideas explained in this article.

July 10 - 2007


Everybody knows how HIGH is the price to carry every single kg. in space. That's why all space agencies put all their efforts to optimize the payloads' mass to avoid the launch of a (very very expensive!) "dead weight". But, that basic rule of ALL (manned and unmanned) spaceflights, was ignored in the 2005 ESAS plan with the unbelievable NASA choice to develop and build a 5 m SIX-seats capsule to be used in 99% of missions with three or four astronauts. That means the (underpowered!) Ares-I must lift up to 50% of "dead weight" in all orbital/ISS missions and over 30% of "dead weight" in all Moon missions!

However, the solution to avoid the launch of SO MUCH and SO EXPENSIVE "dead weight" (in 99% of missions) is simple: develop and build a FAMILY OF ORIONS rather than a one model for all purposes. That's possible since half of the $9 Bn LockMart contract is aimed at the development of the technologies to build a modern, advanced and up to date version of the Apollo. MY suggestion is to develop and build (at least) three models of Orion: a 4 m. three-seats orbital/ISS less sloped Orion, a 4.5 m. four-seats Moon missions "sliced" Orion and a standard 5 m. six-seats Mars missions cone shaped Orion launched with different (and cheaper) rockets.

July 20 - 2007


In my Orion's TPS article I've explained why the jettisonable TPS could be very dangerous, then, yesterday rumors say that option has been deleted from latest Orion designs in the attept to save up to 3000 lbs. from its overweighted mass.

Unfortunately, that change deletes also the (early planne) Orion's landing on land, so, the new capsule will become very much close to the old splashdowns-only Apollo.

However, a simple change in the Orion's design could allows 90% of that mass saving and LAND landings, moving the parachutes from the Orion's top to the capsule's door side and adding (on the opposite side) 4+ (small) landing engines that use the same RCS thrusters propellent (now changed from "green" to hypergolics) to brake the Orion's landing speed, like happens in all Soyuz missions.

Of course, the landings "siderockets" and the extra-propellent still have a mass, but not so much like the (dangerous) jettisonable TPS and its set of landing airbags.

This smart and rational configuration (with the parachutes opened from the Orion door side and the landing rockets on the opposite side) can be used for (both) emergency or standard landing on LAND and allows (also) the option to install four "shock absorbing" seats that will be VERY SAFE thanks to a very long vertical excursion, nearly IMPOSSIBLE in the standard (Mercury/Gemini/Apollo/Soyuz/Shenzhou/Orion) TPS/Airbags side landing!

August 7 - 2007


In this page I've suggested MANY WAYS to CUT the Orion mass but the BEST is my SEVENTH idea: the "MAGIC TANK".

You know that Orion is planned for (both) orbital/ISS and lunar missions, so, its Service Module's tanks must be large enough to fill them with 8.3 mT of propellent, mainly used to accomplish the Trans Earth Injection (TEI) burn in lunar missions, OR just 4.2 mT for all orbital/ISS missions to reach the ISS orbit (around 400 km.) from its insertion orbit (around 300 km.) reboost the ISS (if necessary) and deorbit to come back to Earth.

Well, the main NASA problem is that an (underpowered) Ares-I actually IS able to launch a (3000+ lbs. overweighted) Orion for all orbital/ISS missions (with only 4.2 mT of propellent) but NOT for LUNAR missions when its tanks must be filled with 8.2 mT of propellent.

Now, the (expected) mass of the Orion+SM+propellent+LAS is over 30 mT, while, its max weight should be around 28 mT (or just 20 mT without the interstage and LAS) to be launched on the Ares-I (assuming the latter will have enough "power" to launch it...).

However, the solution to SOLVE ALL ARES-I/ORION'S PROBLEMS is simple: just launch the Orion for (both) orbital/ISS and lunar with only 4.2 mT of propellent, then REFUEL IT IN SPACE (only for lunar missions) with an extra 4 mT of hypergolic propellent, carried in orbit in a "MAGIC TANK" placed between the EDS and the LSAM.

Using this solution (that needs a simple change in the lunar missions' architecture) ALL Orion's launches will be "orbital" so, ALSO an UNDERPOWERED Ares-I could (always) carry an OVERWEIGHTED Orion, since, with only 4.2 mT of propellent in the SM tanks, the Orion+SM+LAS mass will be around 26 mT and the Orion+SM mass LESS than 16 mT !!!  

The propellent in the "MAGIC TANK" should be at least 5-6 mT (for redundancy) the Orion SM refuel may need a few hours and the MAGIK TANK mass never affects the Orion/LSAM performances/mass since the MAGIC TANK will be jettisoned with the EDS after the Trans Lunar Injection (TLI) burn!

August 12 - 2007


These are the FIRST SEVEN of a series of SMART and EASY WAYS to CUT the Orion's weight!

Other GOOD ideas will be published soon!

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Copyright © 2007 Gaetano Marano - All rights reserved - all base images used for the drawings are © NASA

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