FARO® Laser Tracker
FARO Technologies
Lake Mary, FL

Making its first flights to the International Space Station by the middle of the next decade, the Orion crew exploration vehicle is part of the Constellation Program, which will send human explorers back to the Moon, and then to Mars and other destinations in the solar system. Future astronauts will ride into orbit on Ares I, Orion’s launch vehicle, which uses a single, five-segment solid rocket booster. NASA’s first test flight, called Ares I-X, will provide NASA with an early opportunity to test and prove the hardware, facilities, and ground operations associated with the Ares I.

NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, is facilitating the build-up of the Ares I Crew Module, the Launch Abort System, and the Separation Ring Assembly. Langley chose the FARO Laser Tracker for its portability, ease-of-use, and ability to achieve extremely high accuracy levels. The system was used to establish an accurate Flight Test Article (FTA).

Precision layouts on large surface tables were essential to aligning the large build components of the Launch Abort System (LAS). During the installation of permanent fasteners, the laser tracker was used to monitor any movement in the parts and help technicians maintain critical tolerances that were on the engineering drawings. On the Crew Module (CM) upper bulkhead assembly, the laser tracker was used for critical template alignment. These templates assured the holes were accurately aligned so that the CM and LAS would fit together correctly when the time came to mate the two pieces of hardware together.

The tracker was also used to create a model coordinate system that is an exact replica of the engineering CAD model. This makes the use of build points possible where large parts of the structure can be tweaked into the correct alignment system with other existing FTA components. Spatial Analyzer Software was used with the FARO Laser Tracker in helping to effectively manage the entire buildup of the Ares I-X CM LAS.

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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