Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: When it comes to spacecraft endurance, NASA's Orion takes the cake, in terms of withstanding hot and cold temperatures in the process of going in and out of space.
Now, in a bid to bolster its efforts to prepare humans for deeper space missions, NASA engineers have refined the key thermal protection system of Orion — new exploration spacecraft designed to ferry astronauts to asteroid and Mars.
Therefore, enhancing the overall system in advance of the spacecraft’s next mission – a flight that will put Orion through the harshest set of conditions yet, is NASA's latest mission.
(The back shell coating will help dissipate electric charges when falling back to Earth. Image courtesy: NASA)
According to NASA, Orion’s thermal protection system is one of the most critical parts of the spacecraft and is responsible for protecting it and the future astronauts it will carry home from deep space destinations. It consists of the spacecraft’s main heat shield that faces into the atmosphere on re-entry to slow the spaceship down and also the grid of tiles known as the back shell. During Orion’s next mission atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the spacecraft will be in space for more than three weeks and return to Earth under even faster and hotter conditions than during its last flight.
NASA also quoted John Kowal, NASA’s thermal protection system lead for Orion, saying, “Orion’s thermal protection system is essential to successful future missions. As we move toward building the system for EM-1, we’ve been able to take advantage of what we learned from building and flying Orion to refine our processes going forward”.
NASA further says that the adding the silver coating to the back shell panels of the spacecraft will help Orion regulate its temperature. The coating will help Orion’s back shell maintain a temperature on the exterior of the spacecraft from -100°C to to 290°C while in space. It will also help shield Orion from electrical charges during the nearly 40,000 kph return velocities from the vicinity of the Moon.