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From Apollo 11 to Orion: Honeywell Helps Astronauts Explore Space

Honeywell employee checks out hand controls for the Apollo 11 lunar module in the 1960s.

Honeywell employee checks out hand controls for the Apollo 11 lunar module in the 1960s.

Honeywell Aerospace shared in the 45 year celebration of the landmark events of the 20th Century &endash; the U.S. Apollo 11 manned mission to the moon. When Crew Commander Neil Armstrong took his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, Honeywell's contributions enabled NASA to make exploratory and technological advances in space.

Today, Honeywell continues its support of NASA through the Orion program, a crewed spacecraft for missions to the Moon, asteroids and Mars. As Orion prepares for its first mission, Exploration Flight Test- 1 in December, Honeywell will continue its legacy as one of the few U.S. companies involved in every NASA manned-space mission.

The Past: Apollo 11

The Apollo 11 mission particularly captured the interest of the country &endash; and the attention of the world &endash; as the U.S. raced to be the first to reach the lunar surface.

“The Apollo 11 mission was the most noteworthy and historical achievement for an entire generation of Americans,” said Joe Zarrella, Project Engineering Manager, Honeywell Aerospace. “It was the crowning achievement of an entire decade of work by the American people, and Honeywell made significant contributions to the mission.”

Hundreds of employees working for Honeywell &endash; and Sperry, Bendix and Garrett AiResearch, all now part of Honeywell Aerospace &endash; were among those contributing to the Apollo 11 effort. Employees from the assembly floor to executive offices were filled with pride at helping make history, with many sharing hugs and tears of happiness at site celebrations the next day.

Honeywell's Contributions to NASA

Analog Flight Computer

Honeywell developed the Analog Flight Computer for the first stage of the Saturn V rocket. The system analyzed input resulting from several forces acting on the vehicle such as engine thrust, wind, gravity and internal vehicle flexing and bending. The resulting outputs helped provide thrust vector control for the first rocket stage.

Vehicle Stabilization and Control System

Honeywell contributed the design, development, integration, qualification and production of the stabilization and control system, which allowed the crew to maneuver the spacecraft during various stages of the flight from launch to touchdown.

Environmental Control System

Honeywell developed the environmental control system (ECS) that provided a safe and comfortable environment with pure oxygen and drinking water for Commander Armstrong and fellow crew members Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. The ECS removed carbon dioxide, odors, waste water and solids from the breathing gas, and regulated suit and cabin pressure and temperature levels. It also kept other cabin equipment at safe, cool temperature levels.

Terrestrial Telecommunications

Honeywell manufactured the ground and airborne telecommunications systems for NASA during the 1960s, with NASA selecting Bendix Aerospace Systems Division to build and test the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package that was part of Apollo 11 and the larger Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package for subsequent Apollo missions. The instruments were designed to run autonomously after the astronauts left and make long-term studies of the lunar environment.

The Future: Orion
Orion in orbit
Orion in orbit

Today, Honeywell is helping shape history again as it works on NASA's Orion exploration spacecraft program and the Space Launch System which will lift Orion into orbit for deep-space exploration missions.

According to Zarrella, Honeywell is developing the RS-25 engine controller which will reside on the first stage of the SLS rocket. He added that Honeywell is also developing the Redundant Inertial Navigation Unit and Rate Gyro Assembly navigation systems for the SLS vehicle.

Honeywell products are scheduled to fly on the Orion Exploration Flight Test 1, the vehicle's debut unmanned flight test scheduled for late this year. It will take the spacecraft 3,600 miles into Earth's orbit to test some of the most significant systems of the spacecraft before the first human flight later in the decade.

For the Orion program, Honeywell is handling Orion navigation hardware and software design and development, as well as production of the navigation avionics and the command and data handling system that provides the flight management computing infrastructure for the Orion vehicle.

“Orion and the Space Launch System will allow humans to travel further into space than ever before,” Zarrella said. “The targets include both asteroids and Mars so we have a long journey ahead of us &endash; one that will inspire our children and their children for many decades. We're proud to be a part of that.”

To learn more about Honeywell Aerospace, visit its website or Follow the Aero blog.

Steve Brecken
+1 (480) 307 3592  - Mobile