NASA’s Orion orbital test flight has been a thorough success, and it has re-entered Earth’s space and landed into the Pacific Ocean at the exact point where it will be retrieved. But the success of the Orion’s test flight cannot be praised without mentioning the crucial inputs of some persons and space companies that made the takeoff and landing easy, especially as it relates to the ability of the spacecraft to withstand the intense temperatures of the Vans Belt without damaging its systems.
The state-of-the-art heat shield that protected the spacecraft and the software that guided it to a safe landing were developed by two companies in Bay State. These ensured the Orion succeeded at making the 3,600 miles journey into space and returning safely.
Professor Jeffrey Hoffman, MIT aerospace engineer noted that “One of the key points of this test flight was to make sure that the heat shield could tolerate this more stressful re-entry. It seems to have worked quite well, which is great news.”
Protecting the spacecraft’s crew module from as much as 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit when it made to re-enter Earth’s space from a high altitude point and a velocity of 20,000 mph, specialists at the Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington had applied a protective coating to serve as heat shield for the unmanned space robot. The heat shield coating, Avcoat, was made of a material that wears away as it heats up during re-entry – and then, technicians and engineers had spent several months applying this coating, the largest heat shield of its kind.
The Orion was able to land with precision at the Pacific Ocean site because its guidance and navigation algorithms were designed and built by Draper Laboratory, a Cambridge company.
Professor Hoffman hinted that “The first use of Orion for a human mission that NASA is talking about is actually to go into orbit around the moon to visit this asteroid they want to bring back. NASA is developing the technologies that will be necessary ultimately for deep space exploration and so I think it is fair to say that this is a first step toward Mars.”
And this is because NASA looks toward 2018 for the launch of the next Orion, and possibly 2021 for the ferrying of passengers to asteroids and even Mars.