Since the first successful test flight last year, NASA scientists were constantly working on the Orion Spacecraft which will take humans on Journey to Mars. After year-long efforts, engineers have designed new refined thermal protection system for the Orion Spacecraft which will enable it to withstand more than 2200 degree Celcius temperature. The step is crucial keeping in the security of astronauts going to the Red Planet as well as the spacecraft itself.
The thermal protection system is one of the key elements in the spacecraft which protects it from the harshest set of conditions and now the improved version will ensure safety of astronauts. NASA will test Orion’s endurability during next mission named Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in which the spacecraft will fly for at least three weeks and return back to Earth at a faster speed so that it get can tested through even hotter conditions.
“Orion’s thermal protection system is essential to successful future missions,” said John Kowal, NASA’s thermal protection system lead for Orion. “As we move toward building the system for EM-1, we’ve been able to take advantage of what we learned from building and flying Orion to refine our processes going forward.”
EM-1 is aimed at testing the Orion in a more intense re-entry environment. Previously the spacecraft was tested at a speed of 900 metres per second and temperatures of approximately 2200 degree celcius. However, during EM-1, the Orion will travel at over 1100 metres per second and heat conditions will be severe. It is to be noticed that with even slightest of the speed difference, temperature increases exponentially and Orion’s new shield will get test during re-entry where the speed and temperature experienced will be maximum.
For these future Orion missions, a silver, metallic-based thermal control coating will also be bonded to the crew module’s thermal protection system back shell tiles. The coating, similar to what is used on the main heat shield, will reduce heat loss during phases when Orion is pointed to space and therefore experiencing cold temperatures, as well as limit the high temperatures the crew module will be subjected to when the spacecraft faces the sun. The coating will help Orion’s back shell maintain a temperature range from approximately -150 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit prior to entry and also will protect against electrical surface charges in space and during re-entry. In addition, engineers have found success in reducing the mass of the spacecraft by improving the manufacturing process.
You can read the complete article on NASA’s site.