Spaceflight Insider

Insider Exclusive: Lockheed Martin’s Jules Schneider talks EM-1 and Orion

Kennedy Space Center Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building Exploration Mission 1 Orion photo credit Michael Howard SpaceFlight Insider

The pressure shell for the EM-1 Orion arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 1, 2016. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — On Feb. 1, 2016, NASA and Lockheed Martin welcomed the pressure shell for the Exploration Mission 1 Orion spacecraft to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Earlier in the day, SpaceFlight Insider sat down with Jules Schneider – Lockheed Martin Orion assembly, integration, and production manager – to provide more background on NASA’s new crew-rated vehicle.

Orion arrived at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility via the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft and was promptly offloaded and transferred to KSC’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. For Lockheed Martin, this is just the start of what will be more than two years’ worth of work to get Orion set for its first flight atop the super heavy-lift Space Launch System booster.

NASA Super Guppy spacecraft arrives at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida with Exploration Mission 1 Orion. Photo Credit: Laurel Ann Whitlock SpaceFlight Insider

The Orion pressure shell arrived on Feb. 1, 2016, via NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft. Photo Credit: Laurel Ann Whitlock / SpaceFlight Insider

EM-1 is a planned 21-day circumlunar mission that will be flown as a “shakedown cruise” before the SLS/Orion duo conducts a mission with a crew on board.

One of the first objectives that Orion is targeted with carrying out is the Asteroid Redirect Mission – or “ARM”. During which a boulder will be transported from an asteroid by an uncrewed spacecraft and ferried to lunar orbit. From there, NASA will launch crew on Orion via the SLS.

Schneider downplayed comparisons that have been made between Orion and the Apollo Command and Service Module, noting that whereas the Apollo CSM was designed with a single destination in mind, the Moon, Orion’s missions, and the amount of time it will be required to be on orbit are planned to be much more varied – and longer. The Apollo CSM was designed for about 14 days of use; as noted, Orion’s is as much as three weeks. Schneider stated that the differences between the two spacecraft’s mission profiles are profound.

“The Apollo system was designed for a very specific mission, send crews to the Moon, have them land there and then return folks safely,” Schneider said. “The Orion system is designed for a much bigger, broader set of missions. So our capability has to be much more flexible and broad-based because we’re not one mission-driven, we have to satisfy multiple deep space missions.”

Orion first took to the skies on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket in December of 2014.

“We learned a tremendous amount during EFT-1 and we’ve incorporated changes, too many to count, into the EM-1 Orion,” Schneider said. “An enormous amount of lessons learned on EFT-1 is about to go into the EM-1 spacecraft.”

If everything continues to go as it is currently planned, NASA officials have stated that Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) should launch in late 2018.

Video courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider with elements provided by NASA and ESA


Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Apollo CSM was designed for about 4 days of use? That would be news to the crew of the later Apollo missions, including the Apollo 17 which lasted 12 days, 13 hours, 51 minutes, 59 seconds

Mr. Maslowski,
Apologies, apparently my finger missed the “1.” Appreciate you letting us know, we’ve since corrected it.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

Very interesting interview. Job well done.
Do you (or anyone else) know what the maximum mission life is for Orion. The article mentions 3 weeks for EM1, but I’m guessing the service life of the vehicle is quite a bit longer. For example, Soyuz stays on orbit for months.
Best Regards.

Hi Bruce,
I reached out to our contacts at Lockheed Martin – this is their response:

The Orion spacecraft is designed for a range of missions, and although the EM-1 mission is on the order of 3 to 4 weeks, the spacecraft is able to accommodate missions that are much longer. Under NASA’s Constellation program, Orion was required to accommodate both 240-day missions at ISS as well as 210-day lunar outpost missions. In NASA’s current Orion program, the 210-day requirement was not removed, so the existing vehicle can accommodate missions of at least 210 days. Given the reliability and autonomy a 210-day mission requires, we believe the spacecraft can likely fly missions of much greater durations. Our assessment of the current vehicle has indicated that Orion can support about a 1,000 day mission when consumables like food, water and oxygen are provided.

Sincerely and with kind regards, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

How many Orion spacecraft are to be built?

Hi Eric,
There is no set number at this time.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

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