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L3Harris Continues Human Spaceflight Legacy with NASA Orion Audio System

During the Apollo 11 mission, the entire world held its collective breath as Neil Armstrong stepped out of NASA’s lunar module and onto the surface of the moon.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Image Credit: NASA

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The technology that brought the world this famous Neil Armstrong quote can be tied back to L3Harris’ early roots. 

L3Harris’ technology has been part of every NASA human space flight.

In fact, for six decades, L3Harris has partnered with NASA to develop mission-enabling human spaceflight technology. A few examples:

From Apollo 7 to Apollo 17, the L3Harris legacy company Radio Corporation of America provided technology to enable all of the program’s VHF communications.

Another early L3Harris company, Radiation, had one of the most prominent Apollo program roles: providing telemetry. Radiation was responsible for delivering technology capable of transmitting data from both the Command Module and Lunar Module. Its telemetry units provided real-time readings on speed and location of the and the physical condition of the astronauts. The units also provided technical data, like fuel flow and position of manual switches.

During the time of the Atlantis program, L3Harris provided the audio terminal units and controllers for the International Space Station (ISS) Audio/Video Distribution Systems (AVDS). This technology enabled ISS crewmembers to communicate with teammates on Earth, even during spacewalks.

L3Harris will once again be part of a historic moment in human spaceflight as NASA prepares to make its triumphant return to the moon and beyond.

NASA's Space Launch System
Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

The Artemis Missions: A New Era in Human Spaceflight

NASA’s Artemis II mission marks a new era for NASA’s human spaceflight program with the new Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft. SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built. It will transport the Orion spacecraft to the moon in 2024 – with the help of L3Harris’ high-performance, technologically advanced core stage and booster avionics.

The Artemis II mission will also carry the first female astronaut to the moon.

L3Harris NASA Orion Audio System
L3Harris’ NASA Orion audio system will play a mission-critical role in the Artemis missions by providing redundant internal and external crew communications, the audio interface for search-and-rescue operations, and voice recording and playback.

The NASA Orion Audio System

Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for Orion, has tapped L3Harris to develop one of NASA’s mission-critical components: the audio system. The audio system will connect astronauts to each other, to mission control and to the world. With Orion’s sights set on Mars, this could be the farthest L3Harris’ crewed spaceflight technology has ever traveled in space. 

L3Harris' three-part audio solution is completely customized from the ground up – from the circuit cards to the network stack – to provide astronauts with mission-critical communications capabilities.

There’s nothing “off-the-shelf” about it.

Based on NASA’s exacting set of requirements, the three components of the solution include the audio control unit, audio interface unit and the speaker unit. These audio components are designed to withstand the unique demands of human spaceflight.

The audio control unit acts as the brains of the system. The speaker unit provides the audio. And the lightweight audio interface unit, which incorporates a voice sensitivity feature for hands-free use, will clip onto an astronaut’s suit.

The L3Harris-developed NASA Orion audio system features five voice channels, low power consumption and 13 alarms that provide real-time situational awareness. Its design can easily be integrated into any future human spaceflight mission, including reusable landers and commercial programs.

Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are testing the spacesuit astronauts will wear in the agency’s Orion spacecraft on trips to deep space.
Image Credit: NASA/Radislav Sinyak

Audio is critical to astronaut safety.

L3Harris is honored to provide such a vital component for NASA’s Artemis missions to drive the next stage of human spaceflight forward. As the world anticipates the return of astronauts to the lunar surface, L3Harris’ NASA Orion Audio System will be there to capture the historic mission.

Once again, L3Harris’ human-spaceflight technology will be at the core of another giant leap for mankind.

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