Orion Scheduled for December Test

Nasa_blue_marbleAlthough NASA’s Orion capsule will not have its first flight test for six more months, agency engineers are getting excited about what they will learn. They designed the spacecraft to eventually take astronauts to Mars as well as other far away locations, but the unmanned Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission will take place in December. There will only be two flight tests for Orion, with the second occurring in 2017. The first crewed mission is expected to lift off in 2021.

During EFT-1, Orion will travel 3,600 miles from Earth before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 mph. It will include a test of Orion’s launch-abort system, designed to steer crew members to safety if a problem occurs during liftoff. Also to be tested are Orion’s heat shield—the largest ever built at 16.5 feet wide-parachute performance, radiation monitoring, and the advanced computer system’s ability to handle extreme temperatures.

Zintro expert Meir Moalem is the founder and CEO of Multimodis, a strategic technology consulting firm for the aerospace community. He explains, “The Orion space vehicle is progressing on its path to human space travel. The mission has 2 aspects: technological and social. On the technological aspect, it is interesting to see the trade-offs NASA made between new, state of the art designs and technologies, and safe, ‘old-fashioned’ proven solutions: on the one hand, a re-entry module which looks a lot like the early Apollo modules and has almost the same re-entry process, but on the other hand, has a unique Avcoat filled honey-comb, a new “first time in space” advanced computer and more.

“On the social-human aspect, one has to consider the importance of space travel to humanity – it certainly costs a lot of money, it’s benefit is hard to grasp at first sight, the implications are, in any case, years from us – but still, humanity is advancing to Space as the true ‘final frontier.’ Projects like Orion are the seeds that will enable man-kind, if it desires (or as some believe, forced to) in the future to establish a community in space.

“There are still major obstacles to succumb: the impact of long-term exposure to radiation, the sustainability of a crew in a limited resources and long duration travel, the effects of low gravity to name a few. However, history has proven that solutions are found, given time (and some say money…) and indeed, there are promising ideas. What Orion is also proving is that the United States is dedicated to develop space travel capabilities, at first to nearby planets or asteroids (which are worth a separate article regarding the economic benefit and potential), and as technology and time advance, to more distant destinations within the Solar System.”

Walter H. Delashmit, Ph.D., P.E. (PA, FL) retired from Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control on 1 January 2007 after 25 years at Lockheed and 39 years in the aerospace industry. He is an IEEE Life Senior Member and IEEE Charter Member and 50+ Year Member. He says, “I fully support this development. I worked on the Apollo and Skylab Programs before starting work on torpedoes and missiles. The Apollo program was a technology driver that is responsible for or at least pushing the time frame for many of the technologies that most people (not me due to my age and background) today take for granted.”

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