Scientists tested the system for the protective panels that will help NASA’s Orion spacecraft from the wind and heat that it will experience as it ascends into space. During the test, the test panels successfully broke away from the spacecraft as desired. According to NASA’s Press release, each panel is 14 feet high and 13 feet wide.
“Hardware separation events like this are absolutely critical to the mission and some of the more complicated things we do,” said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We want to know we’ve got the design exactly right and that it can be counted on in space before we ever launch.”
The system includes six breakable joints and six explosive bolts that separate the system from the spacecraft when desired. Once the joints have been broken and the bolts detonated, six springs will push the panels away from the spacecraft, leaving it free to travel without the extra weight.
For next year’s trip into space, the spacecraft will be equipped with a test module that scientists hope will eventually be connected to the space craft to provide for the astronauts within. While the spacecraft is not expected to be manned until 2021, scientists and engineers are testing the system now so they can make changes as they see fit.