As a result of the decommissioning of the overly complicated and accident-prone Space Shuttle, a vacuum has existed in the area of indigenous human spaceflight capabilities for the United States. This has left the US entirely dependent upon the Russians, and their reliable Soyuz spacecraft, for ferreting humans to and from the International Space Station. As a result, NASA has been thinking about possible successors.

NASA’s answer is a return to a much simpler and safer capsule design: the Orion Spacecraft, the aerodynamics of which were proven in the 1960s Apollo program. Yet while the aerodynamics are the same, the Orion is in all other ways a completely new spacecraft. As such, NASA has tapped in to a wealth of industrial and educational talent with the intention of streamlining development and reducing production costs.

It is under this backdrop that Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) and Texas Tech Whitacre College of Engineering have partnered to develop components for the Orion. The students’ contribution was deemed to be of such high quality, that it merited a nomination for the 2012 Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Stellar Award. In recognition of this achievement, NASA representatives will be in Lubbock on Thursday (Oct. 4) at 2pm in the Engineering Center, Suite 100.

“The students and their advisors at Texas Tech University have played an important role in the development of Orion through their participation in the SSANS project,” said Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin Vice President and Orion Project Manager. “They have worked effectively with NASA and Lockheed Martin, and we were proud to nominate the SSANS Team members for a Stellar Award as part of the Rotary National Awards for Space Achievement program.”

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