Feature Stories

I’m on Board: UTC Aerospace Systems employees helped build NASA’s Orion spacecraft

December 5, 2014

UTC Aerospace employees from Rockford Illinois and Windsor Locks, Connecticut, have helped to build NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which successfully completed its first Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) on Friday, December 5. It launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:05 am and had a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at 11:29 am.

The Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle will eventually take humans farther into space than any other space vehicle to date. It will be capable of low-earth orbit and lunar or deep-space orbit. For EFT-1, the spacecraft went 15 times farther into space than the altitude at which the Space Station orbits.

UTC Aerospace Systems employees worked on several systems for Orion, including the Active Thermal Control, Pressure Control and Power Control and Switching hardware. The pressure control equipment consists of a Negative Pressure Relief Valve, which prevents collapse of the capsule if it has been evacuated during re-entry.

The Active Thermal Control hardware consists of a series of coldplates that provide cooling of the avionics boxes, a pump package to distribute the coolant throughout the dual fluid loops, accumulators to allow thermal expansion of the coolant fluid and maintain a system minimum pressure and an ammonia boiler/tankage to provide additional cooling post service module separation through post landing.

The power control and switching hardware provides power bus connectivity from external power sources to the Power Data Unit subsystem, conditioned power to various loads within the Crew and Service Modules, communication to ECLSS Components and conditioned power to various loads within the Crew and Service Modules.

Here’s what some of our Orion team members have to say about their roles in developing this new spacecraft:

Virna Rodriguez
Manufacturing Engineer

On Orion, I worked as a manufacturing engineer for the Non-Structural and Structural Cold Plates. Basically I oversaw the manufacturing of these components from beginning to end.

I think the coolest part of my job was that I was able to work directly with different functional groups during the Preliminary Design Phase of these components. This included discussions of systems, design, structure, etc. It was great to see how our components worked together as part of a complete capsule launched into space.

I am also proud that we were able to successfully build and ship the hardware for Orion. No matter what obstacles came throughout the process, as a team, we overcame them and saw the final build.

Virna is originally from Caguas, Puerto Rico.  She obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez.

Rob Woods
Staff Systems Engineer

I was given the opportunity to work as the lead systems engineer for the Orion Pressure Control and Ammonia Thermal Control Systems. I was excited to be an important part of one of the largest programs our department has ever had on a high-profile space vehicle.

The part I enjoy the most is problem solving through mathematical modeling and analysis. I like knowing, for instance, that the amount of oxygen that will be loaded onboard the Orion is based on a number that I came up with.

I’m proud to be part of such a tremendous team of people. I get a lot of motivation from the mutual respect of my teammates and the satisfaction of solving difficult problems. I also have some pretty big, colorful, complicated, nerdy spreadsheets that I’m particularly proud of.

I was interested in space at a very young age. I went to space camp when I was 12 and always had a tremendous respect for science and NASA. I always hoped to work amongst the smartest people in the world to solve difficult and challenging problems.

Rob was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania. He received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University.

Jeff Darmetko
Project Engineer

As a project engineer working on Orion, I was responsible for the development, design, assembly and verification of multiple end item deliverable hardware that reside in the Active Thermal Control Subsystem (ATCS)  portion of the Crew Module (CM) Environmental Control and Life Support System.

I am most proud of being a part of the team that designed, developed, assembled, tested and delivered the Coolant Pump Assembly to the EFT-1 vehicle. It is one of the more complex electro-mechanical designs that reside in the Orion ATCS - essentially the heart of the system because it provides the flow of heat transfer fluid, or coolant, throughout the vehicle to keep electronics and the crew at a safe temperature.

It’s not often that one gets an opportunity to develop the country’s next space vehicle.  In fact it only happens about once a generation. I came to Orion to learn what it takes to achieve such an endeavor and to be a part of the incredible history that Orion will eventually write for our country.

Jeff attributes his love of space to when he was in elementary school where he watched the first shuttle launch on TV. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern University.

Dana Henry
Mechanical Technician

On the Orion program, I was an Inspector performing final inspections, floor support, final dimensional inspection and coating inspections. The coolest part of my job is the fact that my stamp and signature is one of the final “buyoffs” before a piece of hardware goes out the door and starts its journey to orbit. In fact, I was told I had performed the final inspection of and delivered to shipping, the very first piece of Orion flight hardware in the entire program! I also love working alongside a team of dedicated individuals to provide the finest life support hardware possible.

My interest in space started in the early 1960s during the “space race” to the moon. It was sort of destiny, I was born 30 days before NASA in 1958. I remember watching all the Gemini and Apollo launches and landings as a kid. My mother woke me up at midnight for the moon landing, when my grandparents got the first color TV on the block, we would all go there to watch. I was so fascinated!

Dana was born and raised in Lynn, Massachusetts. He has an Airframe and Powerplant license, which is a FAA license to fix aircraft and an Associate’s degree in Information Technology. He also mentors a FIRST Robotics team.

Gloria Choi
Senior Electrical Engineer

I was the design lead for the 28VDC cards which go into the PDU (Power and Data unit) and provide 28VDC power to loads within the Crew Exploration Module. This involved working with a team to generate the necessary requirements for the 28VDC Card to meet both the power quality and the environmental requirements for the Crew Module and Service Module.

Currently, I am working on the Orion Program as an IPT (Integrated Product Team) lead for one of the Orion Designs. I love working with many different functional groups and it’s cool to know that the product that I designed or worked on is going to be used in this new space vehicle and will be flying very soon. I was very proud when we completed the functional test on our very first Unit (Engineering Unit) and shipped it to the customer.

Gloria first started working at UTC Aerospace Systems as a Co-op when she was in college. Her first deployment was with the Space Systems side of the business in Rockford, Illinois.  She was then hired after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Marquette University.

Chris Giovingo
Systems Lead Engineer

I was a Technical Lead for the Rockford PDU cards and the Umbilical Switch Card (USC) circuit designer. The coolest part of my job is the realization that the products we are designing will be integral to carrying astronauts to locations farther from Earth than ever before.

 The greatest achievement to date, that I am most proud of, was when we successfully delivered our EFT-1 Flight units to Lockheed Martin. I started at Hamilton Sundstrand six years ago and was assigned to the Orion program. I have been working on the program ever since.

Chris became interested in Space at the age of six when he attended the “Young Astronauts” program in Rockford, Illinois. He is from Rockford and earned his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign.