When NASA's Orion deep space capsule makes its next unmanned flight, it will be a bit shinier thanks to a new thermal coating. The new coating and an improved heat shield will protect the spacecraft against the extremes of heat and cold that it will encounter on its journey, as well as from the heat of reentry when it returns to Earth.
NASA's Orion spacecraft
has overcome its latest hurdle on the road to becoming human-rated,
with the completion of a technical and programmatic review (TPR).
Once finished, Orion will be the first spacecraft designed to allow
astronauts to operate beyond Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) since the Apollo
program. Eventually, NASA envisions using the capsule as a key
component in the planned asteroid redirect mission, and the ongoing
endeavor to one day put a man on Mars.
NASA has been pushing the
safety features on its next-generation Orion spacecraft to the
extreme, as it carried out a dramatic parachute test. During the
test, engineers staged the failure of various components of the
descent system in order to see if it would still function, and save
the lives of a potential crew in a worst case scenario.
Lockheed Martin announced that it's completed tests of design changes for NASA's Orion spacecraft’s fairing separation system. Based on information from Orion's unmanned maiden flight on December 5 last year, the alterations are meant to improve performance while reducing weight.
When the first Orion astronauts stare back at Earth, they'll be looking through windows made mostly of plastic. Because Orion is designed to carry out manned deep-space missions and even a possible Mars voyage, NASA decided it was time to replace the conventional glass windows with panes of acrylic that are lighter, less expensive, and more structurally sound than previous designs, and is more suited to long-duration missions.