NASA's Orion manned spacecraft is ready for its first test flight

Published Jun 6, 2014, 1:19 pm IST
Updated Apr 1, 2019, 3:13 am IST
Orion’s heat shield is coded with Avcoat, it burns up during re-entry into Earth

Houston, Texas: NASA in its press release on 5th June said that the Space Agency and the Lockheed Martin engineers have installed the largest heat shield ever constructed for crew module of its Orion spacecraft. Orion is a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) that is a planned for beyond-low Earth orbit (LEO) manned spacecraft. The installation of the heat shield marks a major milestone towards the Orion's first launch in scheduled in December.

Further, Orion’s Program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Mr Mark Geyer was quoted saying "It is extremely exciting to see the heat shield in place, ready to do its job," the heat shield is such a critical piece, not just for this mission, but for our plans to send humans into deep space."


Orion’s heat shield is coded with a material - Avcoat, it burns up during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. This process is of heating up is called ablation that prevents the transfer of extreme temperatures to the crew module. The Avcoat is covered with a silver reflective tape that protects the material from the extreme cold temperatures of space.

The spacecraft’s first test will help engineers to learn about the heat shield's ability to protect Orion spacecraft and its crew from extreme heat of about 4,000-degrees re-entry at the speed of 20,000-mph from space followed by an ocean splashdown. Data acquired during the test flight will bring out improvements about design of heat shield and other systems on-board and authenticate existing computer models and new approaches to space systems design and development. In return, the reducing overall risks and costs of future missions, that will include exploring an asteroid and Mars.


Orion's flight test also will provide important information for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and ocean recovery of the spacecraft. NASA engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center have built an advanced adapter to connect Orion spacecraft to the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch the spacecraft during its first test in December.

The coming months will see, the Orion crew and service modules being joined and put through functional tests before the craft is transported to Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility for fueling. In the final stage, the Orion spacecraft then will be transferred to the launch facility to be connected to the LAS before making the journey to Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37 for pad integration and launch operations.


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