Spacecraft to Carry Astronauts to Moon Suffered Heat Shield Failures in Test Flight

The Orion spacecraft, designed to transport astronauts to the moon in the next few years, will undergo several missions during an unmanned test flight in 2022, according to a recently released report by NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). faced a serious problem.

smithsonian magazine report The test flight found anomalies in Orion’s heat shield, isolation bolts and power distribution, posing a serious risk to crew safety, the report said. The inspector general stressed that any heat shield issues on future Artemis missions could result in the loss of the vehicle or crew.

An Artemis 1 rocket prepares on launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Friday, August 26, 2022. The launch is scheduled for Monday morning, August 29th. (AP Photo/Bryn Anderson)

During the 25.5-day Artemis 1 mission, which launched on November 16, 2022, the unmanned Orion capsule orbited the moon, made two lunar flights, returned to Earth, and entered the Pacific Ocean on December 11. It landed on the water.

But the heat shield’s protective “coal bed” material wore away unexpectedly in more than 100 places during atmospheric reentry, causing the spacecraft to crack and shatter into pieces rather than melt away as intended. It’s gone. The issue raises concerns about the adequacy of protecting the crew and spacecraft from the extreme 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit heat experienced during atmospheric reentry.

In addition to the heat shield problem, several of Orion’s bolts unexpectedly melted and eroded. NASA made some changes to Artemis 2’s bolt design, but the bolt’s performance is related to how NASA addresses the heat shield issue. The spacecraft also encountered a power system distribution anomaly, which NASA believes was caused by radiation and will be addressed through software changes.

The spacecraft’s launch caused more damage than expected to the mobile launcher, and repairs cost $26 million, more than five times the $5 million NASA had allocated for repairs.

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Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News, covering free speech and online censorship issues.