Scientists and engineers at Space Power Facility of NASA Glenn Research Center in Sandusky, Ohio, are set to commence test of Orion’s power systems early in 2016. The facility center is the most powerful space environment simulation facility in the world.
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The European Service Module (ESM) to be used for the spacecraft is to be subjected to tough tests to determine the structural integrity of the machine to enable it stand the challenging task of launch from above the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
Starting from February next year, engineers will commence operations to assess ESA’s and its partners integrated stack hardware. This is a combination of latest technology and lightweight materials needed for spaceflight missions.
“We added new facility capabilities for environmental testing over the last several years to meet the demands of validating the systems on the Orion ESM,” Jerry Carek, SPF facility manager, said.
Constructed by Airbus DS, a partner with ESA, the solar array wing to be deployed will be tested first. This is about 62 feet wide and it is the work of engineers to be certain that it deploys fully and retracts correctly when the command is issued.
By early March to April 2016, the wing will be tested in the acoustic chamber where a noise of about 20 jet engines will shoot it out. To this extent, each sample of the ESM material will be tested individually and also together at blasts starting from 152 decibels and 20-10,000 hertz of vibration and sound pressure.
And between May and July, this item will be moved to the Mechanical Vibration Facility where a vibration table creates the kind of shaking movement that a spacecraft creates at launch. This table is fixed to 4.5 million pounds of concrete seismic mass attached 50 feet inside a bedrock with 106 tension anchors.
“A series of repeated configuration tests will vibrate the stacked parts of the ESM from every possible angle,” said Robert Overy, chief engineer of the ESM Integration Office at NASA Glenn. “We want to push it past the extremes it might experience in the launch environment.”
Again, the material will also be tested in August where a pyro-shock test of spacecraft adapter will be used to produce the kind of shock that the service module will go through when it separates from the rocket. And lastly, the solar array deployment event will be done on a ESM that is fully loaded.
The Orion spacecraft is to ferry astronauts to Mars and to asteroids, and it will take off on a SLS rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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