The Orion crew module is hoisted above a test fixture at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (left); the service module flight model for Exploration Mission-1 arrives in Germany.
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.
Direct Field Acoustic Testing is being conducted on the flown Orion crew module. Credit: Lockheed Martin
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.
Orion is lowered onto a work stand in the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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.
At Michoud Assembly Facility, technicians welded together Orion’s barrel and aft bulkhead inside a tooling structure.
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 Lockheed Martin’s facility near Denver examine Orion upon its arrival. Credit: Lockheed Martin
NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew into space in 2014 has completed its trek from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Littleton, Colorado, facility of Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Engineers will perform final decontamination of the crew module, continue post-flight analysis and evaluate a new acoustic technology to determine if the method can produce enough energy to simulate the acoustic loads Orion will experience during launch and ascent atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. Check out images of Orion and read more about the acoustic testing here.
Mars enthusiasts around the world can participate in NASA’s journey to Mars by adding their names to a silicon microchip headed to the Red Planet aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander, scheduled to launch next year.
The fly-your-name opportunity comes with “frequent flier” points to reflect an individual’s personal participation in NASA’s journey to Mars, which will span multiple missions and multiple decades. The InSight mission offers the second such opportunity for space exploration fans to collect points by flying their names aboard a NASA mission, with more opportunities to follow.
Last December, the names of 1.38 million people flew on a chip aboard the first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts to deep space destinations including Mars and an asteroid. After InSight, the next opportunity to earn frequent flier points will be NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, the first planned test flight bringing together the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule in preparation for human missions to Mars and beyond.
Submissions will be accepted until Sept. 8. To send your name to Mars aboard InSight, go to: http://go.usa.gov/3Aj3G