Engineers building spacecraft are used to a bit of pressure, but the team assembling and testing Orion at locations across the United States and abroad are preparing for the kind of pressure they like.
In the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Orion’s crew module is being assembled, a team from NASA and Lockheed Martin is getting ready for Orion’s proof pressure testing, an evaluation that will help verify the structural integrity of Orion’s underlying structure known as the pressure vessel. The work is an important milestone on Orion’s journey toward its mission beyond the moon atop the Space Launch System rocket in 2018. Last week, the team moved it to a new testing structure in advance of the evaluation.
At NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, engineers started testing a structural representation of the service module with sound pressure and vibration to make sure the component, which powers, propels, cools and provides consumables like air and water in space for Orion, can withstand the noise and shaking of launch. Meanwhile, at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, engineers are already in the thick of a series of tests that began earlier this month where a representative Orion crew capsule with crash test dummies inside is dropped in Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin to understand what the spacecraft and astronauts may experience when landing in the Pacific Ocean after deep-space missions. Langley engineers have already completed three tests in the series and will next add spacesuits and helmets to the test dummies inside to gather more data.
While the stateside team continues to put the crew module through its technical paces, the European team manufacturing Orion’s service module has also been making progress. This week the first flight module of the Orion service module, provided by ESA (European Space Agency), was delivered by Thales Alenia Space to the Airbus Defence and Space, which is building it, to its location in Bremen, Germany. There, elements of the service module will be integrated before it’s shipped to Florida for integration with the rest of the Orion spacecraft early next year.
Engineers at Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s facility near Denver are assessing a new acoustic test method on the space-flown Orion crew module.
Direct Field Acoustic testing uses more than 1,500 customized, high-energy speakers configured in a circle around the vehicle. This test simulates the intense acoustic loads Orion will experience during launch and ascent on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. If this test method passes all necessary evaluations it will be used to verify Orion’s ability to withstand SLS acoustic loads during its next mission, Exploration Mission-1.
Engineers loaded the Orion pressure vessel, or underlying structure of the crew module, into a work stand in the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 2. The pressure vessel’s seven large pieces were welded together at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans between September 2015 and January 2016. It will fly thousands of miles beyond the moon on Exploration Mission-1.
The pressure vessel provides a sealed environment to support astronauts and is key for future human-rated crew modules. The Orion team will test the pressure vessel to make sure it’s structurally sound and then begin outfitting it with the spacecraft’s other systems and subsystems. Over the next 18 months, more than 100,000 components will arrive to Kennedy for integration into Orion. Check out more photos of Orion’s trip to Kennedy.
The pressure vessel, or underlying structure, of Orion for Exploration Mission-1 is heading to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The pressure vessel was assembled at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where technicians welded together its seven large aluminum pieces in detailed fashion over the course of about four months. It will travel to Kennedy on the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft. Once it arrives, engineers will unload it into a fixture in the Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building where it will undergo testing and be outfitted with Orion’s systems and subsystems.
NASA’s Orion Program continues to mark progress at facilities around the country toward the next flight of the spacecraft. Engineers at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, are preparing a structural representation of the ESA (European Space Agency)-provided service module for several months of testing to ensure the component, which supplies Orion’s power and propulsion, can withstand the trip to space. The test article recently arrived from Europe. Meanwhile, technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are continuing the process of welding together the seven pieces of Orion’s pressure vessel for its next mission. See the latest images of Orion progress here.
Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans continue to weld together the primary structure of the Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission-1. Technicians recently joined the spacecraft’s barrel section, which is the round middle part of the spacecraft, to the aft bulkhead, which is the bottom portion of the crew module. Orion’s primary structure is composed of seven large pieces that are put together in detailed order. Orion’s three cone panels next will be welded together. Once completed, the structure will be shipped from Michoud to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Orion’s systems and subsystems will be integrated and processed before launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket.
Engineers at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, began the first of a series of modal tests on a structural representation of the crew module adapter (CMA) for Orion. The CMA will connect the capsule to the ESA (European Space Agency)-provided service module for the spacecraft’s next mission, Exploration Mission-1. The service module is designed to be the powerhouse that fuels and propels Orion in space.
The tests at Plum Brook Station shake structural elements at various frequencies to simulate how launch vibrations and acoustics will affect the spacecraft during its trip to space atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. They are being conducted ahead of the arrival of a structural representation of the ESA service module to the facility this fall for additional testing.
Engineers are using a “building block” approach to testing in which they evaluate each piece as the elements composing the service module are stacked atop each other to validate it before flight hardware begins arriving in 2017.