July 24, 2015 – Engineers at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, began the first of a series of modal tests on a structural representation of the crew module adapter (CMA) for Orion. The tests vibrate the spacecraft structural elements at various frequencies to simulate how launch vibrations and acoustics will affect the spacecraft during its trip to space atop NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
The CMA will connect the capsule to the European Space Agency-provided service module for the spacecraft’s next mission, Exploration Mission-1. The service module is designed to be the powerhouse that fuels and propels Orion in space.
“Orion’s service module is at the heart of successful future missions into the solar system,” said Joel Kearns, manager of the Orion Program’s ESA Integration Office. “It contains all the air, nitrogen and water for crews, in-space propulsion, and batteries and solar arrays to generate power, so it’s an essential element of the spacecraft.”
A structural representation of the ESA service module will arrive at the facility this fall for additional testing.
Engineers are using a “building block” approach to testing in which they evaluate each piece as the elements composing the service module are stacked atop each other to validate it before actual flight hardware begins arriving in 2017.
“We’re testing one piece at a time as we integrate the elements so we can look at our models, determine how the vehicle responded, adjust as required and perform additional tests if we need to,” said Kearns.
The testing campaign at Plum Brook Station will continue for most of 2016. Once complete, the stacked structural test articles will be sent to Lockheed Martin’s facility in Sunnyvale, California, where hardware and software simulating other parts of Orion will be integrated before undergoing additional structural tests.
The ESA-provided service module for flight will arrive in the U.S. in January of 2017 and be sent directly to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the rest of the Orion spacecraft. The entire EM-1 spacecraft will then be shipped to Plum Brook Station for environmental testing that qualifies the vehicle for flight, and then returned to Kennedy for launch processing.