Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Orion Program Update: Summer of Safety and Recovery Systems Testing,SLS Rocket Fabrication and Testing

This summer has been quite busy for the Orion Program,with multiple tracks of testing and fabrication going on at various NASA and contractor faclilities.The media rarely report what many Americans would consider dull engineering activity.Of course,the excitement of exploration cannot occur without these extensive preparations.No one will fly in a shoddily built,unsafe and untested spacecraft.In actual fact,the missions to deep space have already begun with this hardware development,and also the research on long-duration flight being done on ISS.*
On 14 June,a mock-up of the Orion crew module was dropped out of a Boeing C-17 Globemaster at an altitude of 25,000 feet over the US Army Proving Ground in Yuma,Arizona to test the three main parachutes.The test was of the parachutes' performance in low altitude and low dynamic pressure.The engineers are testing for different situations in this flight qualification process.It was the sixth of eight tests.*
NASA has also been testing an updated design for the crew module uprighting system,a system of five airbags on top of the capsule that inflate at splashdown.The original design,tested on Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014,didn't work properly.The airbags should turn Orion right side up if high winds or waves were to flip it over,or if it should land nose cone first in the ocean.The testing will be in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at Johnson Space Center,Houston,one of several tests to validate computer models.Later in the summer,the airbags will be tested in the Gulf of Mexico off the Galveston,Texas coast.*
On 15 June,subcontractor Orbital ATK tested the abort motor for the Launch Abort System,firing it for five seconds.The LAS is positioned on top of the Orion crew module,and propels the crew in their capsule away from the Space Launch System rocket,directing them toward the Atlantic Ocean for a safe descent in the event of an emergency.*
The test verified that the LAS can fire within milliseconds and will work as expected under high temperatures,NASA said.*
As well,crew egress testing took place from 10-14 July in the Gulf of Mexico by an interagency group of NASA,US Navy,Coast Guard and Air Force personnel to stage various ideal and less than ideal splashdown and recovery scenarios,such as landing off course or water intruding into the crew module.*
Meanwhile,Space Launch System rocket hardware such as fuel tanks and solid rocket booster motors are being fabricated and tested by contractors including Boeing and Orbital ATK.All the hardware will eventually be shipped to Kennedy Space Center for stacking and integration of Orion and the SLS for the uncrewed Exploration Mission-1 in 2019.EM-1 will be  followed by the crewed EM-2 in the 2022-3 time frame,taking astronauts a record 40,000 miles past the Moon and dropping off 13 CubeSats,small satellites that will conduct research on lunar and astrobiology topics,among others.*
Boeing (BA),Orbital ATK Inc (OA)

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