Sep. 12, 2011 Engineers have successfully completed the first of a series of acoustic tests on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) ground test vehicle, which consists of two major components of the Orion spacecraft: the crew module and the launch abort system. Built to spaceflight specifications, the Orion MPCV ground test vehicle is the first full-scale spacecraft built to support the development of the final human space flight vehicle, which is slated for its first orbital flight test in about two years.
More than 600 instruments, 500 accelerometers and 100 microphones were placed throughout the Orion crew module/launch abort system stack to test critical components of the spacecraft such as avionics, propulsion and crew life support. This ground test vehicle will serve as the "workhorse" for environmental testing that provides critical data to define the spacecraft's capabilities needed for long-duration, deep space missions.
The series of tests being conducted at Lockheed Martin's Reverberant Acoustic Laboratory near Denver, Colo., expose the spacecraft to acoustic forces as high as 150 decibels -- the sound energy a human would experience standing about 50 yards from a jet aircraft. The sound pressure tests last only a few minutes in length and are completed incrementally to allow the engineers to isolate and understand the behavior of each of the major components of the vehicle.
After the acoustic test series concludes, the spacecraft will remain in the chamber for modal survey testing in which vibrating stingers will be applied to the spacecraft structure to measure responses to simulated launch environments. The acoustic and modal tests will verify the spacecraft can withstand the extreme noise and vibration the vehicle will experience during a launch or an emergency abort.
Following the testing in Denver, the Orion MPCV ground test vehicle will be transported to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., where it will undergo a series of drop tests to analyze system performance during a variety of simulated landing trajectories and sea states.
NASA's fleet of Orion spacecraft will be manufactured at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La., then sent to the Operations & Checkout Facility at Kennedy Space Center for final assembly and integration prior to launch. The major components of the Orion spacecraft include the crew module, the service module, the spacecraft adapter and the launch abort system.
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