SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) — Part of the test version of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft is ready to undergo testing in northwestern Ohio.
The service module was delivered recently to the NASA test facility in Sandusky. It will receive vibration, acoustic, strength, and temperature tests over the next several months that will replicate conditions the module will experience while ascending into space.
Orion is NASA’s first new spacecraft for humans in over a generation. It succeeds the now-retired space shuttles.
Representatives from various organizations attended a special event at the NASA Plum Brook Station to discuss Orion’s progress.
The service module will provide in-space propulsion, as well as electricity, air, and water for astronauts. The results of the tests will determine if the service module can withstand the challenges it may face in space as well as if it is safe enough to be located near the astronaut crew cabin.
The tests will help NASA and the European Space Agency collaborate on a final service module that will go up in space. Once that one’s ready, it will probably also go through the Sandusky facility for additional verification, Mike Hawes, Orion program manager for NASA contractor Lockheed Martin, told The Blade following a news conference.
The facility was chosen because it has the largest and most sophisticated vacuum chamber in the world for testing rocket parts. The station has a thermal vacuum chamber that simulates space-like conditions and can produce temperatures between minus 250 degrees up to 170 degrees.
“When we launch the world’s most powerful rocket, we’re going to be shaking. We need to make sure it can (withstand) that,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
The next unmanned Orion flight, known as Exploration Mission 1, is scheduled for the fall of 2018.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo said the special event was about “witnessing history and building the future,” and Greg Williams, deputy associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA headquarters, said the delivery of the module “is a substantial milestone in the programs cheduled for the fall of 2018.”