Ohio's Stake in Future Space Missions

Jun 6, 2016

Ohio is cashing in on the future of space exploration by supplying parts and helping to test the Orion spacecraft which is slated to go to Mars in the 2030s.

This spring NASA launched acoustic testing in Sandusky, Ohio for the Orion. The testing was done at the Glenn Plum Brook Station, the world's most powerful spacecraft acoustic test chamber.

Next, scientists will shake things up, simulating tremors that a rocket launch will produce.

In Cincinnati on Wednesday June 1, 2016 NASA contractors were singing the praises of two of 76 small businesses working in the space industry:

  • Metalex, a Blue Ash machining company, is building a tunnel that will go at the top of the spacecraft Orion. During long missions astronauts will be docking to a habitat module, and eventually a lander. The tunnel is how the crew is going to go between Orion and the other habitats.
  • L-3 Cincinnati Electronics of Mason makes launch vehicle avionics, spacecraft communications and flight safety systems.

Thirty-seven thousand people work in Ohio's aerospace industry, many of them in Greater Cincinnati, for an economic impact of $7.6 billion.

The plan is for Orion to go on an unmanned mission in 2018 beyond the moon and back. The first crewed flight is scheduled for 2021. The Mars mission would be about two years. Six to eight months to get there, a year exploring and six to eight months to get back.

It's first test flight was in December, 2014 and recovered here.

NASA and its contractors are using technology to plan for the astronauts' return after they go to Mars. Orion Program Manager for Lockheed Martin, Mike Hawes says the Curiosity Rover has an active radiation monitor so scientists now know how much radiation astronauts will experience and can plan for the right kind of exercise and medical care.

He says, "We're using the International Space Station today to learn those things. We just finished the one year mission with Scott Kelly, so having a lot of new medical data that's coming from that mission that will better inform how we do these longer and longer excursions."

Former astronaut Brian Duffy, who came to Cincinnati Wednesday, was the pilot and commander on four Space Shuttle missions. He wants to be on the 2021 trip and calculated he has a little over 102 minutes of riding rocket engines in which Metalex made parts.