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Orion capsule  (Source: space.com)
The good news is that the hardware can be fixed without having to be remanufactured

According to NASA, the deep-space Orion crew capsule underwent pressure testing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida the week of November 5. After the testing, which subjected the capsule to more stress than it is expected to experience during its scheduled use, NASA found a few cracks. 

The cracks were located in three adjacent radial ribs of the aluminum bulkhead. It occurred at a pressure of 149 kilopascals. To pass the test, the Orion would have had to reach 164 kilopascals without cracking. 

The good news is that the hardware can be fixed without having to be remanufactured. However, NASA wants to figure out exactly why this happened, so it will use an electron microscope to scan the damage. 

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the maker of the Orion, and will perform the testing necessary to investigate what happened. It took about one year to build the space capsule. 

The Orion was set to launch in 2014 in a flight called Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), where an unmanned Orion will launch into orbit and reenter the atmosphere at 32,000 kilometers per hour. It's unclear whether this flight will now be delayed due to the damage. 

The Orion capsule will eventually take astronauts into deep space to locations like asteroids and Mars. It will be the most advanced spacecraft ever, with the ability to provide safe re-entry from deep space, a way to sustain astronauts in space, and an emergency abort option. The Orion spacecraft was first unveiled by Lockheed Martin in early 2011.

Just this past July, NASA brought the Orion capsule to the Kennedy Space Center to begin testing. 

If all goes well with EFT-1, the Orion capsule will take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit via the new Space Launch System (SLS)which is NASA's latest heavy lift vehicle that will also be used as the backup for international and commercial partner transportation to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Orion capsule is set to launch atop the SLS in 2017. The Orion is set to be the main mode of deep space transportation for about 30 years.

Source: MSNBC



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RE: Pressure test
By mmatis on 11/28/2012 4:50:06 PM , Rating: 5
The Operations and Checkout Building where the Orion capsule is being tested has two vacuum chambers to simulate space conditions. They were built for the Apollo program, were mothballed at the end of that, and then were reactivated for testing US-built International Space Station modules after the Russians insisted that was the only valid way to go. I am not sure if they are able to accommodate the 16.5 foot diameter Orion capsule, but they WERE able to fit the 15-foot diameter station modules, with their support trunnions extending beyond that width, as well as the ground handling structures to latch onto those trunnions and support the module in the chamber. Shuttle trunnion length limits would seem to be 8 inches, so the chambers were AT LEAST able to accommodate a 16' 4" diameter vehicle. And as far as I remember, the thermal panels for Apollo, which intrude into the chamber space, were not removed for Space Station hardware testing. If they were pulled out for Orion, that should give enough room for a 16.5' diameter vehicle.

Do note that the Space Shuttles NEVER went through a vacuum chamber, and seemed to work reasonably well - at least from a "crewed vehicle doesn't crack and break up" standpoint - for 135 flights. Of course, the International Space Station resulted from Clinton's unwillingness to accept anything named "Space Station Freedom", and NASA was largely groveling before the Russians during his entire Administration. But then that WAS the Goldin Era, being reprised now during the Bolden Era, where the agency's primary mission is to make Muslims feel good about their religion's contributions to science and engineering.

Postscript: I see the O&C building mods for Orion did accommodate use of at least one of those chambers for the vehicle:
http://southeast.construction.com/features/2009/12...


RE: Pressure test
By MGSsancho on 11/28/2012 6:00:09 PM , Rating: 2
I guess this chamber is used for even bigger items? http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_...


RE: Pressure test
By mmatis on 11/29/2012 8:39:17 AM , Rating: 2
Could be. Would most likely be for items larger than the Orion capsule, however, since final assembly for that is done in the O&C Building at KSC. If the agency decides to go interplanetary, they will need some sort of habitation module for the months-long transit, and that could very well be too large to fit in the KSC chamber(s). The photo with this article, however, does show the Orion capsule sitting in the high bay of the O&C Building.


RE: Pressure test
By Azethoth on 12/4/2012 6:16:20 AM , Rating: 2
Interesting read until the crackpot stuff about how a Democratic president is somehow magically different from a Republican president. I can assure you that recipients of drones and cruise missiles do not stop to figure out if it is a liberal, conservative, Republican or Democratic missile.

Maybe stick to the engineering which you seem quite good at?


RE: Pressure test
By mmatis on 12/4/2012 8:49:23 AM , Rating: 2
I expect that you are not interested in NASA enough to understand that the Goldin era was installed by Shrub I.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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