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T+162 days (May 15, 2015) - EFT-1 heat shield nears end of analysis

Ever since it arrived at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on March 9, engineers have been cutting up Orion EFT-1′s heat shield to better understand how it withstood 4,000 degrees of searing heat. The 16.5 foot wide, Avcoat heat shield was the first thermal shield designed for deep-space human spaceflight since the 1960′s.

Engineers have been removing the material from the backshell since mid March, laser-mapping the entire heat shield before the process began. A seven-axis milling machine unique to Marshall was used to remove the material.

Over 180 squares have been cut from the single-piece heat shield, which have been sent to research centers across the country to analyze and determine the heatshield’s performance.

Once completed at the end of May, the milling machine will smooth the heat shield to a layer one-tenth of an inch thick. In early June, the backshell will be transported to Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where it will see new life as a water impact test article.

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J-2X engine combustion stability test at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center.

Shuttle Enterprise arrives at the Marshall Space Flight Center for the Mated Vertical Ground Vibration Test (MVGVT) series in Huntsville, Alabama, 1 March, 1978. The test series began at the Dynamic Test Stand in 1978 with the other components of the Space Transportation System.  Booster configuration tests, involving the orbiter Enterprise and the External Tank, began in May and were completed in July. Here, the orbiter passes MSFC Building 4200 on its way to the test area.

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T+ 137 days (20 April 2015)

Over the course of the last month, technicians at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have been stripping Orion’s heat shield of its ablative material. Before the avcoat material was removed, however, the heat shield was laser-mapped for analysis. 

Not only will this help scientists see how the heat shield performed withstanding 4,000 degree temperatures, but will also help make future heat shields for EM-1 and beyond lighter and more efficient.

The avcoat material was being stripped from the heat shield structure in order to prepare it for testing at NASA Langley. There, it will be mated to a boilerplate capsule for water impact tests before its retired. The used, charred avcoat was being dispersed to museums across the country.

The aluminum honeycomb structure the ablative material is pumped into can be seen in the photos above. Additionally, the depth of the heat shield is easily visible. Ablative heat shields work by ripping away material at high temperatures, literally rolling the heat away. Therefore, the heat shields are substantially thick. 

The heat shield was separated from the Orion backshell in mid February, and arrived at Marshall at the beginning of March.

Photos taken by USSRCCurator



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