Blasted with sound, shaken for hours and pyro
detonated, the Orion Service Module Completes Ground Tests at our Glenn
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.
“Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open
out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric
pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the
stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was
more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be
unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with
thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these
years it still takes my breath away.”
~ Carl Sagan