The Orion Spacecraft Is Still On Its Way To The Surface Of The Earth

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The Orion spacecraft is now on day 22 of the 25.5-day Artemis I mission, which involves a return trip to Earth. Engineers and pilots are still putting the spaceship through its paces to ensure it is ready for manned missions.

Engineers carried out the flight test portion of the propellant tank slosh development. This propellant slosh test is timed to occur during the mission’s quieter phases. Liquid propellant behaves differently in tanks in space due to the absence of gravity, making it challenging to model this phenomenon on Earth.

The test requires the flight controllers to activate the reaction control system thrusters at varying propellant tank fill levels. The spaceship is maneuvered and rotated by firing the reaction control thrusters, which are placed on the sides of the service module. About 50 lb of thrust may be generated by each of these engines. Engineers track how Orion’s trajectory and orientation change as a result of propellant sloshing.

To compare data collected at different stages of the mission when propellant levels were different, the test was conducted twice: once after the outward flyby burn and again after the return flyby burn. An estimated 12,060 pounds of propellant have been utilized, 215 pounds less than expected before launch; this leaves a surplus of 2,185 pounds over planned use, 275 pounds higher than prelaunch estimates.

As Orion re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, it will reach speeds of around 25,000 miles per hour and temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or about half the temperature of the sun’s surface. This will put the world’s greatest ablative heat shield to the test. During Orion’s descent to Earth, the crew module is protected from the strong heat by a heat shield positioned at the bottom of the capsule and spanning 16.5 feet in diameter.