NASA’s Orion spaceship got its heat shield that will protect the spacecraft during its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere when the test flight to the Moon ends. Orion is designed to take humans to the Moon, but, until then, the spaceship will have to succeed in its test flight to the Moon, scheduled for 2019-2020 period.
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, the US space agency’s engineers equipped NASA’s Orion spaceship with a 5-meter-wide heat shield with a complex structure that is expected to make it through the high temperatures during the craft’s re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. According to NASA’s scientists, this shield is meant to resist to up to 2,800 degrees Celsius (5,000 degrees Fahrenheit).
At base, the shield is composed of titanium truss packed into a “skin” of composite materials with carbon fiber layers. But this new NASA’s Orion heat shield is unique because it incorporates the brand new Avcoat material blocks.
NASA’s Orion got its new heat shield, state-of-the-art technology to help the spacecraft safely return from its test flight to the Moon
Designed by Textron Systems, the before-mentioned Avcoat is an ablative material commonly used in heat shields during NASA missions. It was also used for the Apollo manned missions to the Moon of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as during the last Orion mission of 2014. However, back then, Avcoat was injected directly onto the heat shield in a honeycomb-like layer.
Now, for the new NASA’s Orion spaceship, the engineers came up with a new technological advancement regarding the heat shield. Instead of injecting Avcoat, they chose to build Avcoat material blocks.
“A benefit of switching from the honeycomb system to the blocks is that we now can make the Avcoat blocks at the same time that the Orion structure is being made. And when the module is ready, we can secure the blocks, which saves time,” said the thermal protection system manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, John Kowal.
NASA’s Orion spaceship would perform its first test flight to the Moon, without a crew, somewhen between 2019 and 2020. However, NASA expects Orion to be successful and to take humans to the Moon, eventually.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.