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NASA’s first uncrewed flight test of Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is one step closer to reality after Orion’s service module completed acoustic testing inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week.
The service model has been provided by the European Space Agency. It will supply Orion’s main propulsion system and power and house air and water for astronauts on future missions.
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The tests were completed on May 25 and NASA technicians will now analyze the gathered data.
Potential flaws revealed under sound
The test team is looking for flaws revealed in the acoustic environment. To complete the testing, engineers secured the service module inside the testing cell.
Acoustic equipment including microphones, strain gauges, and accelerometers were then attached to it before it was subjected to a series of five tests.
Each test involved a different acoustic level, ranging from 128 to 140 decibels. At its peak, the sound was as loud as a jet engine during takeoff.
Artemis 1 first step towards crewed moon mission
Artemis 1 mission is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions as part of NASA’s plan to send crewed mission to the moon and Mars. It will launch Orion on the SLS rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B, flying deep past the moon before returning.
The mission will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration. The spacecraft will travel further than any built-for-humans spacecraft ever flown before.
The entire mission is expected to take a total of three weeks. On its return, Orion will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, where it will be retrieved and returned to Kennedy.
Brushing past the moon
Orion will initially head to the moon taking several days to get there before flying 100 km above the surface of the Moon as it passes it by. Then, the spacecraft will use the Moon’s gravitational force to propel itself into a new deep retrograde, or opposite, orbit about 70,000 km from the Moon.
Orion will travel in this orbit for about six days. During this time, it will collect data and allow mission controllers to assess the performance of the spacecraft.
“This is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis 1 mission manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It will blaze a trail that people will follow on the next Orion flight, pushing the edges of the envelope to prepare for that mission.”
The mission will be an important step in sending a crewed mission to the moon in 2024.
NASA has said there will be a female astronaut on board when humans return to the moon, more than 50 years after first stepping out on its surface.