Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Orion repair being checked

Engineers are putting NASA's first space-bound Orion capsule through tests to stress the capsule's structural shell and check repairs to cracks in the pressurized module's aluminum bulkhead. It's set to fly in orbit in 2014. The static loads testing began May 3 and will run through June inside the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The pressure shell of the Orion spacecraft, comprised of welded olive-green aluminum-lithium metal panels, is being put through the tests to verify the capsule can withstand loads it will encounter during launch, re-entry and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The 16.5-foot-diameter spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, was delivered to KSC in June 2012. Engineers put the capsule through its first test in November, when they pressurized the Orion crew module to check its integrity. The test was halted after technicians heard cracking sounds and inspections showed three small cracks in the aft bulkhead on the lower half of the Orion spacecraft's pressure shell. The cracks materialized in three adjacent radial ribs of the aluminum bulkhead, according to NASA. Engineers designed structural braces to resolve the problem, and those repairs are being tested now. (Source: Spaceflight Now, 05/12/13) Note: The olive-green aluminum alloy core of the Orion was built at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. Stennis Space Center, Miss., is testing the engines for the Space Launch System that will one day launch Orion. Previous: MAF-built Orion at KSC, NASA evaluating Orion cracks