Sunday, November 10, 2013

NASA Orion multipurpose crew vehicle: Triple Fairings Jettison Test completed successfully

The three panels or fairings encapsulating a stand-in for Orion’s service module successfully detach and fall into the Fairing Catch System during a test Nov. 6, 2013 at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

The three panels or fairing that moments before encapsulated a stand-in for Orion’s service module lay safely in the Fairing Catch System after a test demonstrating their detachment system on Nov. 6, 2013, at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

The three massive panels protecting a test version of NASA's Orion multipurpose crew vehicle successfully fell away from the spacecraft Wednesday in a test of a system that will protect Orion during its first trip to space next year.

The panels, called fairings, encase Orion's service module and shield it from the heat, wind and acoustics it will experience during the spacecraft's climb into space.

The service module, located directly below the crew capsule, will contain the in-space propulsion capability for orbital transfer, attitude control and high-altitude ascent aborts when Orion begins carrying humans in 2021.

It also will generate and store power and provide thermal control, water and air for the astronauts. The service module will remain connected to the crew module until just before the capsule returns to Earth.

Artist's rendering of NASA Orion during Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1)

During Orion's Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), the spacecraft's flight test next year, a test service module will be attached to the capsule.

"Hardware separation events like this are absolutely critical to the mission and some of the more complicated things we do," said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"We want to know we've got the design exactly right and that it can be counted on in space before we ever launch."

Unlike conventional rocket fairings, these panels are designed to support half of the weight of Orion's crew module and launch abort system during launch and ascent, which improves performance, saves weight and maximizes the size and capability of the spacecraft.

Each panel is 14 feet high and 13 feet wide. The fairings' work is done soon after launch. They must be jettisoned when Orion has reached an altitude of about 560,000 feet.

To make that possible, six breakable joints and six explosive separation bolts are used to connect the fairing panels to the rocket and each other.

In a carefully timed sequence, the joints are fired apart, followed shortly by the bolts. Once all of the pyrotechnics have detonated, six spring assemblies will push the three panels away, leaving the service and crew module exposed to space as they travel onward.

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