Glenn-Research-Center

Put to the Test: Orion Service Module

Blasted with sound, shaken for hours and pyro detonated, the Orion Service Module Completes Ground Tests at our Glenn Research Center

We recently completed a structural integrity evaluation on the test version of the Orion service module at our Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. Designed to ensure the module can withstand launch atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the battery of tests was conducted in stages over a 16-month period.

The 13-ton European service module will power, propel and cool Orion, while supplying vital oxygen and water to its crew during future missions.

The Powerhouse: Space Launch System and Orion

Our Space Launch System is an advanced launch vehicle that will usher in a new era of human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. SLS, with its unparalleled power and capabilities, will launch missions to explore deep-space destinations aboard our Orion spacecraft.

What is Orion? Named after one of the largest constellations in the night sky and drawing from more than 50 years of spaceflight research and development, the Orion spacecraft will be the safest, most advanced spacecraft ever built. It will be flexible and capable enough to take astronauts to a variety of deep destinations, including Mars.

Welcome to the Buckeye State

In November 2015, the full-sized test version of the Orion service module arrived at Cleveland Hopkins Airport aboard an Antonov AN-124. After being unloaded from one of the world’s largest transport aircraft, the module was shipped more than 50 miles by truck to Plum Brook for testing.

Spread Your Wings

The first step of the service module’s ground test journey at Plum Brook’s Space Power Facility, saw one of its 24-foot solar array wings deployed to verify operation of the power system. The test confirmed the array extended and locked into place, and all of the wing mechanisms functioned properly.

Can You Hear SLS Now?

The SLS will produce a tremendous amount of noise as it launches and climbs through our atmosphere. In fact, we’re projecting the rocket could produce up to 180 decibels, which is louder than 20 jet engines operating at the same time.

While at the Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility, the service module was hit with more than 150 decibels and 20-10,000 hertz of sound pressure. Microphones were placed inside the test environment to confirm it matched the expected acoustic environment during launch.

After being blasted by sound, it was time to rock the service module, literally.

Shake Without the Bake 

Launching atop the most powerful rocket ever built – we’re talking more than eight million pounds of thrust – will subject Orion to stresses never before experienced in spaceflight.

To ensure the launch doesn’t damage any vital equipment, the engineering team utilized the world’s most powerful vibration table to perform nearly 100 different tests, ranging from 2.5 Hz to 100 Hz, on the module in the summer of 2016. 

Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated

The team then moved the Orion test article from the vibration table into the high bay for pyroshock tests, which simulated the shock the service module will experience as it separates from the SLS during launch.

Following the sound, vibration and separation tests, a second solar array wing deployment was conducted to ensure the wing continued to properly unfurl and function.

Headed South for the Summer

The ground test phase was another crucial step toward the eventual launch of Exploration Mission-1, as it validated extensive design prep and computer modeling, and verified the spacecraft met our safety and flight requirements.

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When people have their biases and prejudices, yes, I am aware. My head is not in the sand. But my thing is, if I can’t work with you, I will work around you. I was not about to be [so] discouraged that I’d walk away. That may be a solution for some people, but it’s not mine.
— 

Annie J. Easley

Annie J. Easley (April 23, 1933 – June 25, 2011) was an African-American computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist.

She worked for the Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center) of NASA and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

She was a leading member of the team which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage and one of the first African-Americans to work as a computer scientist at NASA.

Cover of Science and Engineering Newsletter featuring Easley at the Lewis Research Center. Image source: NASA
 

NASA Wants To Send A Submarine To Explore Seas Of Saturn's Moon Titan

Scientists are investigating the idea of sending a submarine to “explore the liquid methane seas of Saturn’s Moon Titan.” NASA is investigating the idea of sending a submarine to “explore the liquid methane seas of Saturn’s Moon Titan.” The vehicle, which is being developed under the agency’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, has been designed to “autonomously carry out detailed scientific investigations under the surface of Kraken Mare.” This body of water is Titan’s largest sea to the north with a span of about 621 miles and a depth of about 984 feet. In a diagram linked to Phase II of the project, the submarine includes features such as a hydrodynamic skin, meteorology sensor, and four thrusters. Meanwhile, a NASA Glenn Research Center video shows a simulation where the vehicle would be able to quickly analyze objects on the seafloor. According to Mental Floss, should the concept become real, the earliest launch would likely be in 2040.

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P-61 Black Widow testing with a ramjet. The P-61 aircraft was built by Nothrop and used by the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory or AERL of the NACA to test the new jet engine. The AERL is now NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.