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Orion Flight Test Hardware Thrives Under Pressure
by Staff Writers
Huntsville AL (SPX) Nov 27, 2013


The diaphragm for Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 is joined to an adapter prototype for pressurized testing. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC.

Hardware that will keep harmful gases away from the Orion spacecraft during its first trip to space proved it won't bend under pressure during a recent test at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The diaphragm for Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 was joined to an adapter prototype for pressurized testing. The adapter will connect Orion to a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket being constructed at ULA's facility in nearby Decatur, Ala.

For the test, the adapter was sealed and a vacuum pump was connected to the diaphragm. The vacuum pressure simulates atmospheric conditions the hardware may experience during the mission.

"Pressure testing helps us validate the design and integrity of the hardware, ensuring that it is flight ready," said Brent Gaddes, Spacecraft and Payload Integration Adapter Subsystem manager at Marshall.

For EFT-1, Orion will travel to an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above the Earth's surface. This flight test will launch Orion farther than any spacecraft built for humans has gone in more than 40 years. It also will provide engineers with important data about the adapter's performance before it is flown in 2017 on NASA's new heavy-lift launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS). Marshall manages the SLS Program for the agency.

"It's always exciting to test hardware, especially flight hardware," said Dee Vancleave, lead test engineer for the pressure test. "Early next year, we will be performing a structural qualification test on the spacecraft adapter. It's very busy in the test world."

Now that pressure testing is complete, the diaphragm will be put into the flight adapter, and cables will be installed.

EFT-1 is scheduled to launch in September 2014 from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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