By Aglaia Staff
In a bid to bolster its effort 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.
The team has been improving the spacecraft’s heat shield design and manufacturing process since the vehicle successfully travelled to space for the first time last year.
On future missions, a silver, metallic-based thermal control coating will be bonded to the Orion crew module’s back shell tiles, the space agency said in a statement.
When it comes to a spacecraft enduring the extremely hot and fast journey from deep space back to Earth, NASA’s Orion can withstand the heat.
The engineers are now 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. During Orion’s next mission atop the agency’s mega Space Launch System (SLS) 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.
“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,” explained John Kowal, NASA’s thermal protection system lead for Orion.