Cracks discovered in Orion capsule's pressure shell
Three cracks appeared in NASA's first space-bound Orion crew exploration vehicle during a proof pressure test this month, according to agency officials, but the anomaly and anticipated repairs are not expected to impact the schedule for the capsule's first orbital test flight in late 2014.
The cracks materialized in the aft bulkhead on the lower half of the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle during a proof pressure test at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in mid-November, according to Joshua Buck, a NASA spokesperson.
"The cracks are in three adjacent, radial ribs of this integrally machined, aluminum bulkhead," Buck said. "The cracks did not penetrate the pressure vessel skin, and the structure was holding pressure after the anomaly occurred."
Engineers will scan the cracks with an electron microscope to investigate the cause, said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA's human exploration and operations mission directorate, in a presentation to a NASA Advisory Council subcommittee.
According to Buck, "the intent is diagnose root cause and repair the cracks in time to support a second scheduled window for loads testing early next year."
Since the Orion spacecraft's pressure vessel arrived at Kennedy Space Center in late June, technicians have continued assembly of the crew module and finished the first proof pressure test, which was designed to validate engineering models and verify the Orion pressure shell's structural integrity.
Orion pressure hull -