[meteorite-list] Heat Shield for NASA's Orion Spacecraft Arrives at Kennedy Space Center
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2013 08:46:05 -0800 (PST)
December 4, 2013
rachel.h.kraft at nasa.gov
Johnson Space Center, Houston
brandi.k.dean at nasa.gov
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
amber.n.philman at nasa.gov
Heat Shield for NASA's Orion Spacecraft Arrives at Kennedy Space Center
NASA's Orion spacecraft is just about ready to turn up the heat. The
spacecraft's heat shield arrived at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in
Florida Wednesday night aboard the agency's Super Guppy aircraft.
The heat shield, the largest of its kind ever built, is to be unloaded
Thursday and is scheduled for installation on the Orion crew module in March,
in preparation for Orion's first flight test in September 2014.
"The heat shield completion and delivery to Kennedy, where Orion is being
prepared, is a major step toward Exploration Flight Test-1 next year," said
Dan Dumbacher, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems
development in Washington. "Sending Orion into space for the first time is
going to give us crucial data to improve our design decisions and develop
Orion to send humans on future missions to an asteroid and Mars."
The heat shield began its journey in January 2012 in Colorado, at Orion prime
contractor Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver. That was the
manufacturing site for a titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin that give
the heat shield its shape and provide structural support during landing. They
were shipped in March to Textron Defense Systems near Boston, where they were
used in construction of the heat shield itself.
Textron installed a fiberglass-phenolic honeycomb structure on the skin,
filled each of the honeycomb's 320,000 cells with the ablative material
Avcoat, then X-rayed and sanded each cell to match Orion's design
specifications. The Avcoat-treated shell will shield Orion from the extreme
heat it will experience as it returns to Earth. The ablative material will
wear away as it heats up during Orion's re-entry into the atmosphere,
preventing heat from being transferred to the rest of the capsule.
"Many people across the country have poured a tremendous amount of hard work
into building this heat shield," said Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer.
"Their efforts are a critical part of helping us understand what it takes to
bring a human-rated spacecraft back safely from deep space."
Before and during its manufacture, the heat shield material was subjected to
arc-jet testing NASA's Ames Research Center in California and NASA's Johnson
Space Center in Houston. Arc jets heat and expand gasses to very high
temperatures and supersonic and hypersonic speeds, thus simulating the
heating conditions that a returning spacecraft will experience.
The heat shield delivered to Kennedy will be used during Exploration Flight
Test-1, a two-orbit flight that will take an uncrewed Orion capsule to an
altitude of 3,600 miles. The returning capsule is expected to encounter
temperatures of almost 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it travels through Earth's
atmosphere at up to 20,000 mph, faster than any spacecraft in the last 40
Data gathered during the flight will influence decisions about design
improvements on the heat shield and other Orion systems, authenticate
existing computer models, and innovative new approaches to space systems and
development. It also will reduce overall mission risks and costs for future
Orion missions, which include exploring an asteroid and Mars.
To learn more about Orion and Exploration Flight Test-1, visit
Received on Thu 05 Dec 2013 11:46:05 AM PST