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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Orion Crew Capsule Gets Heat Shield

Courtesy of NASA
Protecting the Orion crew capsule from the 4,000 degree Fahrenheit trauma known as reentry into the earth's atmosphere, the indispensable heat shield was added. The cabin is coming ever closer to readiness for its unmanned launch in December. That "backshell" as it is called at Kennedy Space Center, features 970 tiles familiar to fans of the late, great Space Shuttle.

Orion's first reentry will definitely be a trial by fire. While the shuttles slid into the atmosphere at 17,000 miles per hour, Orion will enter at 20,000, giving that backshell a real fiery workout before any crew boards her.

Once she has her crews, Orion's heat shield will be able to be repaired in space should it encounter and be damaged by any of the multitudinous space junk floating around up there after decades of spaceflight. However, NASA's ever inquisitive engineers want to know more about what damage to the shields might do, specifically micrometeorite damage:
Before installing the back shell, engineers purposely drilled long, skinny holes into two tiles to mimic damage from a micrometeoroid hit. Each 1 inch wide, one of the holes is 1.4 inches deep and the other is 1 inch deep. The two tiles with these mock micrometeoroid hits are 1.47 inches thick and are located on the opposite side of the back shell from Orion’s windows and reaction control system jets. 
“We want to know how much of the hot gas gets into the bottom of those cavities,” said Joseph Olejniczak, manager of Orion aerosciences. “We have models that estimate how hot it will get to make sure it’s safe to fly, but with the data we’ll gather from these tiles actually coming back through Earth’s atmosphere, we’ll make new models with higher accuracy.”
Good luck and Godspeed engineers and Orion.

To view how NASA sees the future of spaceflight, go to:

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